Fairy Tail Review

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It’s time to review another really long running manga. Unfortunately, this one is a far cry from the brilliance of Bleach. It’s almost the polar reverse if we’re being honest. While Fairy Tail originally wasn’t half bad, it slowly devolved into pure fanservice which completely overrode all of the positives. In an alternate dimension, Fairy Tail could have been an awesome manga series with action scenes that were up there with the best of them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and it ended as one of the biggest train wrecks in manga history!

You know, since Fairy Tail always put fanservice over plot, I’ll do the same thing and discuss this big negative before I even get into the synopsis. Lets face it, if you know Fairy Tail, you only know about it because of the fanservice. Its entire reputation is built on it and that’s why it has such a negative fan following. I’ pretty glad to see that since the series absolutely deserves it. As I mentioned, it didn’t have much fanservice at first. The series played it straight. Then sometime around the tournament arc or maybe a bit sooner, it just started being more and more frequent. Characters were constantly getting stripped or even strip tortured for added grimace effect. It just got quite extreme to the point where you couldn’t go a single chapter without some kind of fanservice moment. By the end I knew that it was so much that no positive could over ride it. For the majority of the final arc and then some, the series was guaranteed a 1. It didn’t matter how great the climax could have been, its fate was sealed. The climax wasn’t even good anyway so that did not help matters.

So the general plot of the series is that there are various guilds. They’re essentially teams of bounty hunters who accept requests to beat monsters, stop robbers, and other day to day stuff for a reward. The main group is Fairy Tail as you might imagine and they are known as a pretty crazy group who will take on any mission. They are legendary as everyone knows them and yet they apparently are still outgunned by all of the big groups. Fortunately, Fairy Tail has one thing that the other groups do not possess- Friendship! Natsu and friends will use this overwhelming advantage to completely dominate the opposition.

There are a bunch of arcs and plots throughout the series but we’ll just look at a few of them. The first really big arc was the Phantom Lord one. The gang arrived home only to find out that their Guild had been destroyed and their teammates were completely beaten up. Natsu and the others decided to take the other guild down as payback and that led to a bit brawl between the guilds. Phantom Lord built himself a pretty strong team so stopping him was no easy task. This was slightly before the fanservice started getting too bad if I’m remembering right so it was a decently solid arc.

Edolas was an interesting arc since the heroes found themselves in a parallel dimension where they all had doppelgangers. That’s always been a pretty classic setup so I was all for that. The other dimension didn’t really have magic and everyone was super weak so I think they dropped the ball on that one quite a bit. The Promotion trial arc was also pretty solid since a bunch of enemies showed up to interrupt this big festival and it was the first time we got to see big guns like Gildarts and the other big shots get in on the action. The Grand Magic Games was a similar arc as the team decided to enter a big tournament to test their skills and restore Fairy Tail’s honor. The arc may have taken itself a little too seriously at times as they were all humiliated and didn’t take it well, but who actually likes losing anyway right? The battles were pretty fierce, but the arc was very fanservicey which hurt. All of the arcs suffer from this by the end so take it as a given.

Then we would finally enter the final two big arcs. The first one had the big demons come from Zeref’s book to try and destroy the heroes. All of these villains were extremely tough so defeating them wasn’t easy. By this point we started to see old characters show up to help out and it became more of a big crossover title. This arc was easily one of the most epic ones with high stakes. Finally you had the big war arc. Zeref decides to destroy everyone once and for all which makes for a very explosive arc. Every character in the series joins up so it gets quite chaotic. A very intense way to end the series even if the author seemed not to care anymore by this point. The hype and epic scenes really added up here. I can’t really say what my favorite arc is, but it’d probably be one of the early ones. Maybe the promotion exam.

Surprisingly, friendship is actually a big part of the manga. It leads to a bunch of plot holes as well though. See, the heroes are constantly put up against opponents who vastly outrank them. They are stronger, faster, and have better abilities. Rather than have the characters train and stuff, they simply just harness the power of friendship and win. It happens on many, many occasions. Erza had all of her bones broken during one fight, but with the power of friendship she jumped up and broke a meteor anyway. The villains get so moved during the fights that they either turn good or literally destroy themselves. Almost no villain stays evil by the end of the series and they manage to turn over a new leaf. That part is fun even if it is a little hard to swallow. Some of these guys were so pure evil that when they smile and talk about friendship it’s hard to take seriously. Like are these guys really buying into the whole ordeal so enthusiastically or are they messing with everyone?

At one point people made a bingo board for the final arc because of over the top it all was. Just about everything came true except for Happy saving everyone at the end. I admit that Fairy Tail was usually pretty funny even if it was certainly unintentional. Don’t expect any character to die either. Characters get the death flags constantly but always manage to survive. If they die it is usually just for a few chapters and then it is quickly reversed. The manga is always very dramatic, but the stakes rarely feel too real. The biggest cop out was when Natsu had to make a decision between being a dragon, human, or demon and basically just didn’t decide because he had friendship on his side. The friendship was enough to cure him so he could be all 3 if he wanted too. That was a little hard to buy and that’s just one example of many. Still, the series does take itself seriously, it’s just that it’s hard to believe the writing sometimes. It’s just pretty bad a lot of the time.

At least the art is really good. I mean, that’s actually kind of bad considering that the series uses it for all of the wrong reasons, but at least it also makes the fight scenes look really good. It’s a shame because it actually is high tier art. It really helps you feel the energy blasts and physical attacks from the various characters. It worked quite smoothly and it also helps you remember the characters right away. The author did a good job of not reusing character designs.

Natsu is your classic protagonist who is always up for a fight and tries to be heroic. The main problem with him is that he takes the worst qualities from characters like Luffy and Goku without getting enough of their positive ones. He’s not very smart and is quick to give the OK to Happy’s crazy schemes. He doesn’t mind using Lucy if it’ll help the mission and his motion sickness causes him to be a comic relief character quite a lot. He does have his serious moments too of course and they are handled rather well. Breaking into Sting’s base and taking on the boss was one of the most intense moments in the series. Still, Natsu could be far better. He never really escapes his generic self and while you can root for him in a fight, he’s just not in the same ballpark as someone like Ichigo or Goku. I do like the fact that he has fire abilities though since a lot of protagonists actually don’t have that. His super forms are all pretty sharp as well and I suppose I can get behind the fact that he makes some good friendship speeches during his fights.
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Happy is Natsu’s sidekick and one of the weaker characters in the series. He’s always messing with Lucy and trying to get her into very suspect schemes just for the thrills. He seems to just like irritating her so he’s not in the same vein as someone like Master Roshi, but it’s all still very extreme so I just didn’t like him at all. By the time he tries to get serious it is way too late and he can’t even fight so it’s not like he is ever very helpful.

Lucy is the main heroine. She’s a nice enough person, but Lucy definitely puts up with way too much harassment from the rest of the cast. It seems like everyone is after her at times and unfortunately she barely even feels like a character at times since the series uses her for fanservice so often. Theoretically that shouldn’t affect her personality but since she never makes a real effort to tell everyone to back off I have to say that she is just not strong willed enough to be likable. Lucy also can’t really fight, but she can summon spirits which help her in combat. The ability is quite limited though so she can’t really compete as the series goes on.

Lets talk about the better supporting characters for a minute. Erza is one of the best in the series and was known as one of the stronger characters from the start. She managed to stay ahead of Natsu and Gray for a very long time which is quite impressive. She is a master swordswoman with incredible stamina and defense. She can endure a lot of injuries like getting all of her bones broken and probably takes more punishment than any of the others. She has a variety of different swords and armors which grant her different abilities. Erza is always eager for a fight and managed to make a difference in all of the arcs. She never got overshadowed even at the very end.

My favorite character in the whole series is definitely Gray as he manages to edge out Erza and Acnologia for that spot. He’s an ice type user so as you’d guess he is Natsu’s rival. He is always fighting with Natsu as they exchange insults and all, but it’s in good fun. Gray’s gimmick of constantly taking off his shirt could have been dicey, but it was handled fairly well. (As well as that kind of plot can be handled I suppose) He does have a habit of trying to use his suicide ice attack which destroys him and the opponent, but since this is Fairy Tail it never works out for him. Gray probably gets a little too desperate at times, but he does always try to make sure he protects his friends. He gets a lot of really hype moments and just really stole the show. If anything, I wish he could have fought a little more in the final arc. He never actually got to match up against Acnologia which is a huge missed opportunity if you ask me.

Gajeel is another rival to Natsu, but one that I couldn’t take seriously. For starters, he was completely evil when he was in the other guild, but “turned good” in the blink of an eye and nobody seemed to care. He strung up some of Natsu’s friends crucifixion style at their base, but it was yesterday’s news. I wasn’t thrilled at how quickly he became one of the gang with comic relief moments and everything. From there, I just never felt like he caught up to Natsu either or that he was even in the same ballpark. I suppose he is meant to be, but I just wasn’t seeing it. From Natsu’s rivals (Gray, Sting, etc) he is definitely the weakest one. He has metal powers so he can make himself more durable and it can also be used as a projectile. It’s not a bad power to have.

Juvia is one of the main heroines of the series and she is a water type user. Her attacks are quite potent as you’d expect since she can drown her opponents and affect the weather itself. Once she is a hero she doesn’t get to fight quite as much, but Juvia is always around. She’s another character who is always willing to make the tough calls to help someone out and really helps Gray out in some of his tougher battles.

Wendy is one of the legendary dragon slayers like Natsu and Gajeel. She looks like a kid because she never got her growth spurt which leads to her always getting annoyed at everyone for pointing this out. She’s typically a chipper character though who is always upbeat and willing to find a peaceful solution to a problem. She has wind powers and more importantly she can heal injuries as well. There are very few healers in the series so the others are lucky to have her. She got a Super Saiyan esque form towards the end of the series which was immensely valuable and helped her catch up to the others in the power department. Like Natsu, Wendy has a partner named Carla. Carla is much better than Happy as she actually does a good job of being a partner by offering sound battle strategies and tips to Wendy. She is also a lot more serious and would have absolutely down voted all of Happy’s plans if he tried them on Wendy.

Mavis is the original leader of Fairy Tail and quite a historic figure in the series. She gets a lot of hype, but can’t really fight. Technically she is dead (Frozen solid so maybe not totally dead) before the series even starts, but she is effectively immortalized as a spirit. She comes and goes as she pleases and still retains her illusion magic. It’s pretty powerful stuff and since she is the best tactician in the series the heroes use her plans quite a bit. I just wish she could have had more offensive magic. She’s a fun character and partially thanks to her well done spinoff manga, I can say that she is one of the better characters in the series.
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Makarov is the current leader of Fairy Tail. He retires pretty often if you ask me, but usually finds himself back in the chair at some point or other. He can be annoying at times as he follows the rules quite a lot. He is definitely ready for a fight when one of the team is kidnapped, but on the whole he is too laid back. He rarely gets into fights and he has one of the worst fights in the final arc. He gets to go up against nameless minions. How impressive for the group leader eh? I expect better from this guy. He is seen as one of the strongest members and all, but I was never too impressed with him. It helps that I never liked the whole “I can turn into a giant!” ability. He could have used more speed if you ask me.

Hades is one of the first big villains. He’s fairly generic as far as personality goes, but I suppose he was all right. He had a decent design I guess and he did give us a good fight scene. He was very overshadowed by the villains who would arrive later on, but as a first big boss he wasn’t bad. He reminded me of Zabuza in the sense that it was the first time the kids got to fight a boss on the level of their sensei. This is almost the same situation as the team has to fight someone who is on par with Makarov. With a name like Hades, you certainly do expect great things.

Zeref is the big villain of the whole series. He seems to show up in every arc as he says ominous things and walk away. He’s the big mastermind behind just about everything and his ability is fierce. Everything around him dies. If he is standing next to you, then you’ll just suddenly die. If you have a strong life force it’ll happen a little slower as you accelerate through the years, but there is just no defense against it aside from the power of friendship. Zeref essentially wants someone to destroy him because otherwise he’ll end up destroying the world. It’s actually a pretty tragic plot if you think about it as Zeref keeps on creating extremely powerful demons and weapons, but none of them are strong enough to defeat him. The strongest of these monsters are Natsu and the Book of END demons, but even they are too weak. Only Acnologia stands a chance and by then Zeref has given up. Instead, his big plan is to become all powerful so he can go back in time and destroy himself so he’ll never have had the chance to hurt so many people. At the same time, Natsu and friends can’t let this happen because then their current memories would disappear. Also, no matter the reason, they can’t just let him die that way. Zeref’s definitely still a villain through and through as his plan involves destroying a ton of people even if he plans to bring them back someday. He did a good job of avoiding people for decades, but I suppose he couldn’t hide out forever. It really is a sad existence.

Laxus is one of the big hype members of Fairy Tail. He has electric abilities and his status got to his head at one point so he became one of the big antagonists of the series. He doesn’t do much after turning good, but he’s a reasonably solid character I suppose. The betrayal still felt so random at the beginning. This is one of those characters that I think the author could have done a little more with to be honest. Same with Gildarts. Gildarts is known as the strongest Fairy Tail member and he got some insane hype. Then he only got a small handful of battles during the series and none of them were against the big threats. His fight against August was fairly good I suppose, but even then he was basically losing. I don’t think he ever quite lived up to his own hype and that’s the problem about waiting so long to have the character to anything. Enough’s enough after a while and the extra hype just starts to get you worried about when the character will actually do anything. Gildarts is also a big flirt who is irresponsible the whole time so that also hurt my opinion of him quite a lot. He’s a bad character.

Mirajane is a Fairy Tail member who can turn into a demon. She’s usually a really nice person, but gets a lot meaner and more aggressive once she transforms. Her demon modes are pretty cool and each of them come with cool stat upgrades. She’s a character who never got a lot of screen time compared to the main characters, but she actually did well when she got a chance. I can’t really recall her losing a major fight. She was likely defeated at some point, but for the most part she did a great job of always coming through when it counted.

Jellal is one of the mysterious figures of the series. He starts out kind of evil as he wants revenge on everybody and eventually becomes an anti hero before becoming a total hero. He also has an alternate universe version of himself that starts out as a hero. He’s a reasonable character for the most part although his romance with Erza is pretty bad from the start. He was also another character who was lost in the shuffle as he assembled a big team of hype characters for the final arc, but they were all taken out off screen. He likes to work alone so that he didn’t cause any trouble for the heroes, but it felt like he never really accomplished anything. He did his best to stop Acnologia and bought a little time, but it didn’t really help much. His super speed Meteor attack and the ones that he can shoot make him a fairly powerful opponent so he’s got that going for him. I also thought he had a pretty good design. While he’s not the best of characters, I didn’t really mind him as a rival.
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Cana is the drunk of Fairy Tail and that’s her main character. She doesn’t do much besides that for most of the series. She helps out in the fight against August and has a big moment near the end where she learns some of the Ancient Fairy magic, but boy does she get the shaft in this series. I’m pretty okay with that since her running gag of fanservice with Lucy was pretty bad and she never has on much of a costume to begin with. She did help the series give us a lot of “It’s Miller Time” moments though so there’s that.

Elfman is probably the blandest member of Fairy Tail and it’s easy to forget that he exists. His whole character is that he’s really strong, but also a nice guy deep down. He comes through for his friends and basically manages to beat much stronger opponents just because he believes in friendship. Sure, you could say the same for many characters, but he’s just so weak that it’s really hard to take him seriously. He stretches the credibility of the moment every time he appears and I just never ended up liking him at all. He doesn’t even have any real bad qualities, there just isn’t anything cool about him.

Jose was a big villain of one of the early arcs, but I can’t really remember him much. What I do remember I can’t really differentiate from Hades so there’s not much to say about this guy. I can’t even say if I like him or not, but if you’re called the Phantom Lord you’ve got to be good right? Cobra is one of the dragon slayers, but not only does he not get a lot of hype, but he never seemed particularly powerful next to the others. He’s such a minor character that I forgot he even existed for a while. He technically has some decent stats and all, but the other slayers are just in another league and he doesn’t get to do much against Acnologia. The series practically breaks the third wall with him as he states that he also has friends to protect, but doesn’t even get a flashback. Meanwhile the rest of the characters are talking about friendship and we’ve seen their bonds throughout the whole series. It’s kind of sad for Cobra.

Ultear is a pretty good villain. She gets into quite a few fights with Gray thanks to their backstory. She’s pretty confident at all times and is capable in a fight. She can control time and even unlock the true abilities that a person possesses within them. This makes her a good fighter as well as a good support member to have at the ready. Her jump from villain to hero was more believable than most of the others and was also handled a lot smoother. Meredy is another strong warrior who can link two people’s senses. This is unfortunately an ability that rarely guarantees victory as it just brings about mutual destruction. If one person feels pain than so does the other so it becomes a battle of who is more durable. The injuries are also linked and this makes for a battle that both combatants won’t enjoy. Honestly, it’s a power that I’d never want to have to be honest, but it’s nice to have when you’re a hero. There are so many great applications for it like being able to feel like you’re eating two different things at once.

Mard Geer was one of the strongest villains in the entire series. Gray and Natsu had to team up to take him on and even then they were just barely able to overpower him. He had a pretty fun personality and his arrogance made the battle more enjoyable. He has thorn abilities so he can hit you with plants and then his demon mode made him a very fierce physical fighter. It had a nice design and just felt like a final boss. In that respect, only Zeref and Acnologia could match him which makes sense since they were the only two big bosses after him.

Kyoka is one of the big members of the END Demons, but she’s not a good villain. She likes torturing her opponents and revels in the pain that she causes. It makes for a terrible sequence with Erza that was one of the low points of the series. She can fight decently well aside from all of that and had a decent design, but just doesn’t make for a good villain. It’s not like you ever end up hoping for her fight to come. Jackal was a good villain though. He was essentially the vanguard of his villain grouip as he attacked first and took on Natsu in an epic fight. While he was seemingly nerfed later on, it was a very impressive opening scene. It started the arc out with a bang and may have been one of the first big fights of the series. He reminded me of Grimmjow a little and I was definitely impressed with him throughout. He was a surprise hit.

Silver is Gray’s father and appears out of nowhere towards the end of the series. There are a lot of plot twists during that fight, but suffice it to say, Silver made for a good villain. His reasoning by the end was pretty wonky, but I suppose when you have everyone jumping from villain to hero, some of the occasions will end up being a little sketchy. This was one of those, but as long as we get the fight I’m good.

Finally we’ve made it to Acnologia, the big bad of the series. You knew he was serious from the start when he managed to take out the whole cast in a single shot. They only survived thanks to a bunch of convenient things occurring at the same time. The characters never quite got up to his level and Acnologia was just in another class. He was able to take on all of the Dragon Slayers teaming up without any effort at all. His conversion to the good side was probably the most cheesy though. He went from talking about bathing in blood and murdering everyone to friendship in the very next chapter. He also ended up going down in one punch which was extremely plot haxy. I think the author just made him way too strong and didn’t think about what to do afterwards. This is a running theme throughout the series. Acnologia is definitely the best villain in Fairy Tail despite this and you always knew that things were going to get real when he showed up.
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August is one of the big fighters in the final arc. He gets a lot of hype and is strong enough to even take on Gildarts. That being said, he has one of the worst ends as he ends up destroying himself. He had a slightly better reason than Irene at least as he finally learned who his mother was and had to destroy himself to stop his spell from destroying the planet. He didn’t completely turn good or anything like that, but it was a good enough reason for him to stop the attack. It was just completely anticlimactic and not how you want to see a big villain go down.

Irene is Erza’s mother and another villain who got a bunch of hype. She was easily overwhelming both Wendy and Erza during the fight. Unfortunately, she also ended up destroying herself instead of finishing the job. She saw the power of friendship and was inspired so she had to end her wicked ways. This is one of the main reasons why the final arc became a joke. If the villains are all destroying themselves or any other villains in their path…then what’s even the point? The heroes couldn’t stop them and the author had to choose one of the worst ways to end it. Irene’s origin story is also unnecessarily dark to the extreme.

Larcade was an okay villain. He never really gets to fight Natsu which is unfortunate, but he has a pretty good fight with Sting. There are a lot of plot hax with his fight but that’s to be expected. His powers are also pretty iffy as he can essentially make you feel great joy to the max during a fight which makes you distracted and unable to fight. It’s a pretty creepy power to be honest but fortunately it wouldn’t work on many main characters due to its limitation. I didn’t really mind him as I liked the lore and his character design, but the power was certainly a let down.

Serena is another big villain who has the power of 8 Dragon Slayers. I actually mixed him up with Larcade quite a bit because their character designs are way too similar. He couldn’t live up to the hype too well since he had the misfortune of going up against Acnologia, but the series did make it clear that he was a formidable threat. I believe that the main Fairy Tail squad of Natsu and friends would have certainly had a lot of trouble with him and maybe they would have even been defeated. For what it’s worth I did think he was a pretty good villain.

Brandish is able to alter the size of her opponents and herself. These kinds of abilities are usually not seen as a threat so kudos to Fairy Tail for using it in a way where she was able to be one of the big threats. It loses that credit almost instantly though as she quickly becomes an ally who is extremely weak and can’t even stand up to her subordinates. Ah well, I suppose the series made an attempt. Invel is essentially Zeref’s right hand man although his role isn’t nearly as big as you might expect. It’s a fairly small role and I don’t recall him doing anything of importance. His ice abilities are certainly powerful though as he was able to give Gray a good fight. Not just anybody can pull off such a feast. Invel may be a little generic as a tactician, but he performs the role well so I have no complaints.

Ajeel is a sand user who is incredibly powerful as he had the upper hand against Natsu and Erza. Having sand abilities always seemed pretty useful to me since they are so versatile and Ajeel supports that argument. It’s just really tough to even land a hit on him thanks to his impressive speed. He was one of the first guys to fight in the final arc and you can draw a lot of similarities between him and Jackal.

Lyon was one of Gray’s original rivals. He never quite kept up though so he doesn’t do much for the second half of the series. His ice abilities are solid, but after a while everyone’s ice abilities just feel more or less like the same thing. Lyon needed some kind of edge to surpass the others and he just never got it. Sting was one of Natsu’s rivals and he did a better job of staying relevant. At the very least, he was around to help against Mad Geer and while he started out antagonistic, he eventually became one of the allies. His turn around wasn’t too cheesy as he never seemed all that ruthless and he was very strong. The scene where he almost took on the whole Fairy Tail squad at once was hype. Too bad the power of friendship brought him to his knees without a single punch being thrown. Sting may never get to surpass Natsu, but I can respect his abilities.

Rogue is essentially Sting’s counter part. Instead of light blasts he uses the shadows. He’s slightly weaker than Sting, but still a really powerful warrior in his own right. The two fighters can even combine their powers to make themselves even stronger. He never had as much personality though and can be hard to trust since his future self ended up turning evil at some point. No worries, his present self will not go down that dark path.

There are several dragons in the series, but Igneel is the only one who really got a role. As far as mentor figures go, I was never too impressed with him. He had a pretty decent fight with Acnologia and he is certainly strong, but he stayed away from the action for way too long. The whole series you’re wondering when he’s going to do something and it takes him too long. I wasn’t too satisfied with the reason for why all of the dragons seemingly died many years ago either. It was an odd decision and the many plot twists that followed made the situation more complicated than necessary.
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Minerva is a skilled fighter who started out as one of the meanest Sabertooth members, but eventually grew to be an ally. She was able to get between Natsu and Jiemma which is no small feat and consistently hid her abilities until the time was right. In close quarters combat she proved to be a match for Kagura and Erza as well so throw in her projectiles and you really have a versatile fighter on your hands. She made for a pretty good villain. Jiemma is a fairly minor villain in comparison, but he gave us one of the most epic batch of fight scenes in the manga so that was cool. As a character he is definitely pretty bad though and is just another “Everyone needs to be strong!” character as he values power above all else. Too bad he didn’t realize that three of his subordinates had already surpassed him.

That was a bunch of characters, but in a series this long that is to be expected right? It managed to get over 60 volumes of course so that was plenty of time for a bunch of different arcs. You really get used to all of the characters during that stretch of time as well. It may be a meme to say that you read Fairy Tail for the plot, but honestly it was pretty good. As I mentioned, there were a ton of really hype moments. Take away the fanservice and this is easily a 9 star manga title. The art was downright amazing and one of the best in the business. The fact that Natsu is a close up fighter makes his fights more engaging since they’re like those that you find in Reborn!. I always like seeing a character who can move at super speeds and virtually fly by the end. It’s a lot more fun than projectile fighters even if their battles can be fun as well.

Since you get used to the characters and there is a lot of foreshadowing for some villains, it also makes the payoff seem that much more grand. After seeing Zeref get hyped up for over 50 volumes, it was really cool to see him fight at last. There are also so many volumes that it lends itself well to a re read since I can barely even remember most of the early arcs to be honest. The tournament and the final arc are easily the most memorable ones to me. Even considering the fact that plot hax was constant and that the villains all kept turning good or destroying themselves, it was easy to stay invested in the story. While it could be cheesy, the whole power of friendship thing was just a lot of fun.

The author built up a very detailed universe with cool power standings and a lot of guilds all over the place. By the end of the series, there were enough pieces on the board to properly do a good invasion arc. You can’t really pull something like that off without being a series that has run for at least 40 volumes. It’s why Naruto and Bleach were able to do it so well since they had also developed everyone by then. One Piece did a reasonably sized one as well in Marineford, but much smaller in scope. That’s a series that could certainly do a big war arc and I’d love to see that be the finale. Hopefully they make the power levels a bit better for those though so there’s less plot hax.

That’s what really makes the manga so disappointing. It’s one thing for a title like Black Bird to sink its own grave because even if you take away the terrible romance and such, the series wasn’t going to be very good anyway. I doubt it would even reach a 5. So to have a series that is actually really good with a lot of effort behind it get completely destroyed because of all the fanservice, now that’s a tragic shame. Especially since it had such a modest beginning. What’s done is done though.

Finally, how was the ending? Well, it’s basically what you’d expect. It goes with a generic time skip, we get pairings for just about everyone (Romance always was a priority for the series) and you probably could have accurately predicted the ending quite a while ago. It’s not as bad as it could have been honestly. It was a fitting way to end and I’m sure that nobody is really going to be walking about it. People will remember the series, but the ending has nothing that will really wow you.

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Overall, It’s really a shame, but Fairy Tail dug its own grave. There was just no way the manga could redeem itself. It prioritized fanservice and that led to its destruction. I certainly can’t recommend this manga since there are plenty of epic titles that don’t resort to such tricks. Stick to classic titles like Dragon Ball Z or Bleach if you want a lot of epic scenes without the negatives that surround Fairy Tail. You’ll be all the better for it and if necessary, there are Fairy Tail spinoffs like the Mavis one which are better than the main title. This one can just fade from our memories.

Overall 1/10

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Star Trek Encounters Review

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It’s time to look at a game that I got a very long time ago. I found this one at an obscure Gamestop on a random day and thought it looked interesting enough. It’s not exactly what I expected and had a bit of a slow start due to the game not explaining things very well, but it picked up quite a bit as the game went on. It’s not the ideal Star Trek game but if you’re really just interested in the space aspect then this is certainly the game for you.

The story mode features 3-5 levels from each of the Star Trek shows. Classic, Enterprise, Voyager, Star Trek, Next Generation, and probably some others. There are also two final levels which crossover the whole franchise. Maybe more like 1 to be honest as the first one just sets the stage for the event. There’s not much of an actual plot as each mission or series of missions are essentially stand alone adventures. You get some text at the very beginning which tells you what is happening and mini cutscenes during the level. Only very small parts of the game have any real voice acting.

You figure out early on that you need to be playing this game for the gameplay and not the plot. You never get to see a single character as the ships are then only things on the screen. As I mentioned, the gameplay isn’t explained too well as it’s actually fairly complex and intricate. It’s an overhead airplane shooter. Of course you’re a spaceship and not a plane. You explore the universe, fight aliens, and help people out. You have your primary weapon which you can switch from two different options and your sub weapon. The sub weapon has around 6 options and some of them are not actually meant for combat like your tractor or energy fuel. They all serve a purpose though so you’ll want to know what they are when tackling a level. You can use R2 to target an enemy so that you can transport some of your crew aboard or to shut down their engine without destroying the ship. You can alter your ship’s stats during the level as well by putting more power into shields at the expense of weapons or vice versa. Throughout the game I always kept weapons and engines on maximum with shields and scanners on minimum. It’s just the best call for me as otherwise the weapons take a really long time to load up.

After you get the hang of the controls, the levels start to feel a lot easier. There is also the occasional race level which is a nice change of pace. When the Borg Queen attacks you are not strong enough to stop her so racing through a bunch of portals is your only way out. The races can be reasonably difficult as missing more than a few portals can be fatal and crashing into enemy ships is just as lethal. They were some of the most fun levels in the game as I do like racing quite a bit. The most tedious levels where the ones where you’d have to do the same thing multiple times like transporting bombs. Plus, I just don’t like having to protect things (Like the bomb) as I prefer to just fight and knock everyone out. It lets me just go all out.

So the difficulty is pretty reasonable and the game’s length isn’t bad. I could usually only complete 4-5 levels in one sitting and there were around 20 if I’m not mistaken. It should last you around 6-7 hours if I had to make a ballpark estimate. There are a lot of checkpoints throughout the levels and you have infinite lives so you don’t have to worry about replaying a large segment or anything like that. One unfortunate thing is that you cannot skip cutscenes. If you lost in a place where the cutscene is particularly long, you have to watch it over and over again.

The graphics for the game are pretty nice. They may not pop out at you quite as much as in the cover, but it’s aged really well for the PS2. The colorful levels towards the end like being in the pink monster were really intense and I liked the last level’s design as everything would keep spazzing out to show you that you were in a time loop. The soundtrack is quite bland though. I feel like there were only 2-3 songs that just kept repeating over and over again. None of them were catchy either so that’s a little disappointing.

There’s a little replay value here, but not much. You can try to find all of the collectibles which honestly weren’t that hard to find. I grabbed about 80-90% of them without even trying during the normal play through. Hopefully it tells you which levels have the rest though since it would take a while to go through all of the levels. I can’t imagine that the reward is really worth the time to be honest so it’s not something I would pursue. There is also Skirmish mode which sounds like endless fighting and multiplayer so that definitely helps the replay value quite a bit. It’s no Star Fox, but I can see you having some fun here.

On a final note I do have to say that the final level was a little anticlimactic. There wasn’t a final boss or anything which was a little disappointing and the level just ends. We were actually losing against the legion of enemy ships, but the time stream just ends up warping them away so everything is happy again. I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that a full win would have been a lot more satisfying than the villains simply being whisked away. The only true boss in the game was probably the Borg Queen which was handled well. The final level should have absolutely done the same thing.

Overall, Star Trek Encounters is a fun game. I really think it could have used more of a plot but at least the gameplay was solid. The final level was pretty epic as it was great to see all of the Starships from the Star Trek franchise team up. We may have only been all together for the final part of the level but it felt like a really good payoff. Since this was a crossover Star Trek game, I would have felt a little cheated if this didn’t happen. The game did a good job of including all of the iconic Star Trek enemies like the Klingons and the Borg as well so it had a nice attention to detail. I’d recommend checking the game out, I think you’ll like it more than you’d expect. You should play it straight through though as forgetting the controls can be fatal in a title like this one.

Overall 7/10

The Running Man Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would likely be more negative.
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I wasn’t too familiar with The Running Man, but the plot definitely sounded like a lot of fun. A corrupt dystopian world has come up with a reality show where assassins chase convicts around. Seems messed up enough for this future. Then throwing in Arnold Schwarzenegger into the picture just makes the whole thing that much more epic. I can safely say that the film was pretty fun and is one that you won’t want to miss.

Ben used to work for the government, but when he defied their orders to murder a bunch of innocents, he was sent to prison. He helps some other convicts escape and decides that instead of trying to beat the system, he’ll simply find a way to survive it. He breaks into his friend’s home, but it is now owned by a lady named Amber. She doesn’t take kindly to being threatened so she gets the cops to lock Ben up. He is now going to be forced to be in The Running Man, where he will have to outrun several hunters who are each armed with deadly weapons. His two expendable “friends” (They aren’t, but the show thinks that they are so why not let them believe that right?) have also been thrown in though along with Amber. Can Ben take these guys down and figure out a way to shut the show down or is it simply too late for any last second heroics?

One thing you’ll notice about the film right away is that the soundtrack is on point. There are quite a lot of fun themes that play during the film and it certainly amplifies the experience. A good film gets that much better with a dynamic soundtrack and they really make the action scenes come alive. The visuals also look pretty good. Considering how old the film is, the effects have aged pretty well and I like how they envisioned 2017 to be. The city looks realistic enough even if it’s not quite so run down. I imagine that this film must have gotten a pretty decent budget back in the day.

The characters are also solid. Ben makes for a great lead. He’s heroic and dependable. Sure, he’s not quite willing to risk his life to join the rebellion at the beginning, but he doesn’t turn his back on others once he is forced into the game. He also doesn’t murder the villains once they are unarmed. If it’s the fastest way then he won’t hesitate to do so, but he won’t go out of his way just for revenge….for the most part. Ben’s a strong fighter and the heroes would have been doomed without his military expertise. I have to say that he pulled off the role quite perfectly as few actors can be as convincing.

The main villain, Killian is also pretty good. He knows how to work the crowd and does a good job of building up the suspense. He doesn’t even let Ben get to him as he knows that this will bring the ratings up. He talks a good game to everyone and while he is a ruthless boss, you’ll be okay as long as you stay on his good side. Mop the floors at your own peril since it can certainly get you into heaps of trouble. The sub villains were all right as well. The only bad one is Dynamo as he fulfills every overweight villain cliche in the book. He’s awful petty and also isn’t much of a fighter. Once you get past the suit, he’s the kind of villain who begs for mercy. The others at least had more dignity than that. Chainsaw put up a good fight before going down and I also liked Sub Zero. It was an interesting take on the guy compared to the Mortal Kombat version. Not as deadly, but fun all the same. The Fire villain was also pretty good since he got quite a bit of foreshadowing and hype. He probably should have moved a bit quicker though. Captain Freedom probably had the most personality from the minions and I like how he simply refused to get into the ring. Nobody was about to talk back to him.

Amber isn’t the best of heroines. She spends most of the film running and panicking. You have to give her some credit for getting away from Ben though. If you put yourself in her shoes, she totally did the right thing. Kidnappers always tell you stuff like “Don’t try to escape” and make a bunch of threats to keep you in line. She took a big risk by making a break for it and yelling and it paid off. While it didn’t work out well for Ben, at least she made a move. Too bad she couldn’t keep up that confidence for the rest of the film right.

If I had a minor nitpick for the film, it’s that the costume in the poster doesn’t really match the one in the film. At the very least I don’t recall the spikes being quite so big. It’s not really a negative just something that I noticed. The film’s camera work is pretty good. Sometimes it can be a little tough to see what’s going on in the background with the low lighting, but I feel like that was made to capture that CSI Miami kind of atmosphere as everything is a little grittier and more life like. Fortunately it was just in the camera work as the actual film isn’t really gritty at all. Some characters get stabbed and such, but at least in the version that I saw it wasn’t explicit or anything.

There is some unfortunate fanservice as we get a really long dance sequence. I suppose it’s a parody to the fact that if society did go downhill we’d be seeing that in every show. It’s fortunately not a huge deal though. The ending to the film is also pretty funny. I was personally expecting it to go down a slightly different path as the guy in the tube lands safely but then sees Captain Freedom and has to try and escape from him. How it was handled worked well enough as well though.

The writing is pretty solid with classic lines like “I’ll be back” and more than a few one liners from Ben. I love puns and one liners as you may know from my comic reviews and the film pulls it off well. It’s just another drop in the bucket to help this film reach “great” status. The climax is also pretty great even aside from the ending. The banter between Ben and Killian was really good and I liked seeing the heroes finally infiltrate the TV station. They were pretty well organized and it added some extra action and excitement to the ending. Even Amber got to win a fight on her own. The film carefully balanced the epic and funny moments with the serious atmosphere.

Overall, The Running Man is just a fun film. It really breezes by to be honest and the pacing was on point. It never dragged on and still managed to bring in a lot of content. We got to see Ben before the game, during it, and even become a resistance fighter afterwards. None of the pieces felt rushed either and it shows that you can still pull off quite a lot in under 2 hours. I certainly recommend watching this film. It’s not quite as well known as it could have been. It has all of the elements that you could want in a big action film.

Overall 8/10

Tegami Bachi Review

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Tegami Bachi is one of those titles that took a big risk as it has a very original plot. It’s about mailmen who deliver letters in an apocalyptic world where giant monsters run wild. Nobody dares leave their house because of these monsters and there really isn’t an army or police to speak of. The Mailmen are known as the last defense and their method of attacking the monsters is to use guns that are fueled by their hearts and the hearts of others. As such, the mail that they deliver carries the feelings of the person who wrote them and that is what allows them to fight the monsters. Otherwise, they have to use their own heart and if they use too much, they’ll die as well.

The series follows a kid named Lag. He cries a lot and isn’t really as tough as you’d expect a mailman to be. That being said, being a mailman has always been his dream ever since he saw one in person a while back. He soon finds out that the group may not be as heroic as the stories say and everyone has an agenda. He also learns the startling truth that the Sun is actually being powered by humans around the world. They are kidnapped and fed into the Sun to keep it bright. The hearts that the Mailmen are using also seem to have permanent effects on the humans so while they are helping the world….they’re dooming its inhabitants at the same time. There are others who know this and call themselves the Revolutionary army. At first I thought they were trying to black out the Sun, but they just went crazy at the end so I’ll assume that they are Twitch commentors. It seems like a simple solution though right? Just blow up the Sun. The Problem is that the embodiment of the Sun is actually Lag’s mother, who was kidnapped and forced to be the vessel. Lag can try to save her and keep the Sun alive, murdering millions in the process, or save the humans but end up destroying his Mom. Alternately he can do nothing and the Mom will turn into a giant monster and destroy the Earth on her own. He has some tough calls to make.

Honestly, one of the reasons why the series wasn’t very good is that the characters just aren’t very interesting. Lag is our protagonist, but it’s hard to like the guy. He spends over half of the series crying. It becomes such a huge part of his character that it’s how he is recognized by the others. After he spent a year training in the wilderness, everyone thought he was an imposter because he didn’t cry anymore. Honestly, that could have saved his character if it didn’t only happen for the final 2 volumes. He essentially sealed off his emotions in exchange for great powers. It was so complete that he couldn’t even shed a tear when his sister died. Was it really worth the power? Well, it gave him enough of a boost where he was able to take down the evil Insect Queen so I suppose, but I can see why the others would be completely alienated. Especially since Lag had absolutely no intention of cluing any of the others in. So, I liked Lag in the final 2 volumes, but considering that the series was a full 20, it was wayyyy too late for any of that.

His Dingo (Essentially it means partner in this series) is Niche. She has an unfortunate habit of constantly taking her pants off since she doesn’t like them and it’s one of those running gags that was never funny even at the start. I do like the fact that Niche has actual powers. She can use her hair as a barrier or as a means of attack so she doesn’t have to worry about carrying mail around. She even has a pet although she claims it is just in case she gets hungry. Again…not a very funny joke. Niche just wasn’t all that likable. She’s all right at best and is a slight improvement over Lag, but not a big one.

Gauche is one of those intriguing characters. He starts out as a great character. He’s the expert that everybody looks up to and manages to stay rather mysterious as well. Then he decided to betray everyone and joined the villain organization…then he became a hero again. By the end he has decided to stick to the path of the hero but he sure did flip flop a lot. He also lost his memories in the process so so much for that. He was a pretty good villain and I suppose he is still one of the most interesting characters in the series, but I wondered what the point of his role was.

Zazie is sort of like a sub rival. He’s a fairly good fighter, but a considerable step below Gauche. He is fairly confident and likes to talk a big game, but his weakness is that his shots lack power so he can’t take down the bigger monsters. He also looks up to Jiggy Pepper a lot. Jiggy gets a considerable amount of hype, but he never actually does much. He only appears once in a while and while it seems like he is a pretty good Letter Bee (Mailman) he just can’t be bothered to help out. You’d think with the fate of the world at stake that he’d make more of an effort.

Connor is Lag’s best friend. He’s the comic relief, overweight member of the Letter Bee police. He can’t really fight much, but he likes eating so that’s what motivates him. He’ll eat anything at any time of the day so I suppose you have to admire the dedication. That being said, it doesn’t really make him a compelling character.

Largo is one of the main leaders of the Letter Bee and naturally he also ended up being a big traitor. As with Gauche though, he seemed rather conflicted about this so after sticking with the villains for a while, he decided to become a hero again. I suppose it’s lightly hinted that he only joined to trick the villains into heading for the final boss room to provide more hearts for the heroes. He also got a really rushed/dark origin story as we find out that his Mom was experimented on and his Dad was a villain. It really had nothing to do with anything, just like this character as a whole.

Roda is Gauche’s Dingo and it’s nice to see one who really knows what she is doing. The obvious parallels between her combat ability and Gauche’s vs the pair of Lag and Niche makes you wish the series would consider trading main characters. Roda is definitely pretty good and is a little more committed to being heroic. Then there’s also Lawrence who is the main leader of the villains. Thing is, since the villains had no plan, I have to put most of the blame on this guy. Whatever he was trying to do didn’t work so clearly he should have thought it through more.
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We also meet the Head Letter Bee at the very end of the series. Essentially he went insane upon finding out that the government was using massive amounts of slaves to fuel the Sun and went crazy. Instead of trying to save them, he decided to help since “what’s done is done.” After reminding us of how he is still evil, he decided to run away, but under the guise of a giant teddy bear. Even though he ran off he still has enough authority to boss around the whole cast. He claims that he has transcended gender as well so he only talks with hearts now. I also don’t know what point this character had, but that’s a running theme in the series.

When you really break this series down, you realize that the story had a really good premise. It really could and should have been a great series. One issue is that there are no real fight scenes. Every action scene is just the main characters firing their guns and hoping for the best. The monsters never really fight back or do anything. They are portrayed as being completley mindless. The final Insect which hovers over the whole sun seems to be as abstract as it is physical. It barely matters since it is taken down in one shot as well. I’m all for mindless monsters attacking, but then that’s why you also need humanoid opponents. However, the villains never directly fought the heroes because they were too busy.

At least the art is pretty decent. It’s not great or anything, but it works well for the somber atmosphere that the series is going for. The characters can look rather similar at times which is a little iffy, but it’s not too bad or anything. Unfortunately, the series does have some fanservice at times. It’s nothing too frequent, but there is some actual nudity in it. The volumes may blur it out as I don’t remember coming across it although a panel in the final two volumes may have had a moment like it, but fortunately it seems like a stain got in the way. Basically stuff like this only happens when Niche’s sister is in town, but that’s still pretty terrible. I am reviewing the title from the volumes that I read though which is why I’m not bumping it down to an instant 0. If you decide to read it online though, be warned. There aren’t a lot of positives to go around as it is so it’s tougher to fight the negatives.

The plot is fairly confusing like Pandora Hearts, but it isn’t interesting in the way that Hearts was. You’re never interested in learning more about Letter Bee because there isn’t much more to learn. Even if you re read the series, it’s not as if you missed a whole lot. It’s just that it doesn’t really make a lot of sense anyway. Here’s one big issue with the series, at the end they say that they can only send one person to the capital to stop the giant monster. Why? The whole world is going to end anyway so why not send everybody? After a lot of drama, they decide to send 2 Letter Bees, but then the whole cast follows them anyway. There was never any reason whatsoever not to send the whole gang in. While they’re bickering and wasting time on side missions to decide who is worthy to go, whole cities are being wiped off of the planet. Yes, the aliens can take out whole cities in a single flash from the Sun but nobody seems to care. Even the manga doesn’t really treat it like a big deal. It’s just a city after all.

This is just one example of how the author didn’t think things through. I also think that he went too far in making every character act like a villain. I know many titles like to make the government evil, but you need to have some good characters. The only two groups are the evil government who kidnaps and tortures its subjects for no real reason and the terrorists who want to either take control of the Sun or blow it up. No matter who you pick, they don’t have your best interests at heart. There was no reason to go to this extreme. The government could have been shady without being evil. Did the Sun really have to be Lag’s Mom so he would be forced to destroy her in the end? Of course, it’s seen as more like he was setting her free, but it’s still rather dark.

Even the ending is rather dark to be honest. I won’t spoil that since it would be a bit much, but part of the whole point of the final journey was to try and save everyone. That’s the whole reason why Lag sacrificed his emotions and tried to get stronger. Unfortunately while it wasn’t futile, the body count was pretty high by the end. Some characters won’t even be thrilled to get their hearts back because they have already lost everyone they cared about. Nobody’s bringing the various cities back. The ending’s a little vague on a certain character, but I’d say that he’s probably dead. It tries to be an inspirational ending, but I certainly wouldn’t call it one. It’s not a classic time skip though so I’ll give it that.

If only the series could have done more with its premise instead of worrying about a terribly conceived plot. I like the idea of people being unable to travel anymore so they have to rely on messages for communication. It’s retro and still gets the apocalyptic feel across. Mailmen being the ones to travel is a nice exaggeration of what really goes on as the famous saying that Mailmen deliver no matter how the weather is. It’s a fun concept and could have made for a really good series. It could have tackled some other themes like if they should deliver messages from villains and the like since they shouldn’t read it, but can read emotions so they typically know what kind of message it is. This was all far too nuanced for Letter Bee though so it simply wasn’t to be.
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Overall, Letter Bee’s not a very fun series. It’s too bad as the series was trying to get back on track by the end. Lag’s new personality was certainly a positive although the Teddy Bear at the end and all of the random twists didn’t help matters. Lag’s friend was going to sacrifice her whole city even though Lag said he had a plan just because she could. (Her plan didn’t work anyway) The series never really seems all that dark except it just is. The manga just doesn’t portray the events as being too serious. There’s not a lot of action and the cast is rather weak. There aren’t a bunch of negatives though so that’s a good thing but they weren’t needed when there isn’t much positive to fight it off. There isn’t much reason to ever revisit the series, but I suppose if you want a title with mailmen and giant monsters, then this one’s a good pick for you. That’s rather specific, but it’s the best I got.

Overall 4/10

Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You! Review

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It’s time for a one shot manga that helps get you ready for the latest Pokemon movie. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that one get dubbed since it’s going to bring back all of the old Pokemon nostalgia. The manga takes the interesting choice of making it a flashback that Alola Ash is having. It would sure be some twist if the movie is just a dream that Ash is having, but fans would certainly not like that. It’s a fun enough story and does what it can with the 20 pages that it was allotted.

Lets start with the story in the current timeline. Ash is still a little too happy and comic relief esque in the new region if you ask me. He doesn’t have a lot of time for his shenanigans, but still manages to get consistently wrecked by the Totem guardian. It seems like these Pokemon are effectively the gym leaders of the region. Still, Pikachu doesn’t go down so easily and manages to take the opponent down in one hit. This is how I picture every fight with Pikachu to go down by the way as he isn’t known as one of the strongest Pokemon of all time for nothing. He’s in a whole other league and has certainly been trained long enough to be ready for this. I’m not sure about the whole Z move thing that the heroes spam nowadays though. The pose isn’t really necessary and seems like it’ll just leave you open during a fight. I also don’t think Pikachu should even need it.

In the flashback, the chapter plays it pretty straight regarding Ash’s origin. He wakes up real late and after struggling to get out of bed finds out that all of the Pokemon have already been taken. Pikachu is still here though so Ash decides to take him, but the Thunder Mouse doesn’t like Pokeballs. Honestly, I can totally understand the sentiment since it takes away your freedom. Ash allows this since he doesn’t have much of a choice and picks a fight with a Spearow by accident. Ash gets wrecked again, but fortunately Pikachu saves him just like in the modern day timeline. Pikachu was always the MVP of the Pokemon anime and it’s good to be reminded of this. Where would we be now without the little guy eh? It’s a fun story and while they didn’t change anything, it’s been a while since I’ve seen this so that’s cool. I definitely wouldn’t mind a faithful manga adaption of the anime that follows Ash and pals. That would have a lot of potential.

The art is all right. You can tell that this is a tie in as it isn’t anything all that special or detailed. The characters are easily recognizable and the art is simple which helps with the fights. That’s about all that I can say for it though. It just doesn’t feel like there was a whole lot of effort behind it. I have a feeling that this chapter was churned out really quick to make it in time fr the movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and I’m glad that we have it, but I always feel like they should at least make this into a full volume as opposed to just one chapter.

Overall, If you’re a big Pokemon fan then you should check this out. It’s a good way to get you hyped for the movie. It’s essentially your standard Pokemon story so it’s not going to change your world or anything, but just seeing the familiar faces and environment again should be enough. I’m ready for a big Pokemon manga as the Adventure chapters only come out once in a while and most of the other titles are either finished or in the same boat. I want a weekly Pokemon manga that I can look forward to every week. Considering how popular the franchise is, I’m surprised that we don’t have one yet. Ah well, maybe one day.

Overall 7/10

Pocket Monsters BW: Good Partners

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I’ve finally started a new Pokemon manga thanks to a scanlator finally picking it up. The series is off to a good start based on the 10 page debut chapter. As it’s only one volume the series will wrap up fairly quick so a strong start really helps it out. I’ll review the series when it finishes and who knows, maybe this could make it as the best Pokemon one shot. It’ll have to dethrone Pokemon Mystery Dungeon for that though.

Overall 7/10

Ultimate Spiderman Review

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It’s time for a superhero show that really serves as the definition of what you can expect from one. I feel like if someone ever asked me to name what I think is the title that feels like what you can expect from an average comic book show, I’d have to recommend this one. Justice League is a great Superhero show and Teen Titans Go is a poor one. Ultimate is more of a symbol of what they all strive to be. It’s not great or very good, but it’s not bad or even mediocre. It’s a good show that blends in a lot of action and comedy. All of Marvel’s current shows essentially have the same style to them and Spiderman is what started the trend. At over 100 episodes, I can safely say that the show did all right for itself.

The show’s main premise is that Nick Fury believes Spiderman should be doing something more with his life. Instead of taking out ordinary crooks, he wants him to become the Ultimate Spiderman. Spiderman decides to give this a shot and is placed on a Shield attack squad with White Tiger, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Nova. Together, the team has to take on a lot of villains and prove to the world that they are the strongest team out there. Can Spiderman really handle this level of pressure though?

Season 1 is mainly episodic as we get used to the team and see them take on challenges. There are quite a lot of guest stars to keep you interested such as Iron-Man, Hulk, and Doctor Strange. You also start to get a sense of which villains will play a big role as Venom and Doctor Octopus show up numerous times. Octopus can get old fast as his design is just so bad in this version and it doesn’t make for particularly engaging fights. Still, I suppose he makes sense as the big villain since he constantly has a master plan up his sleeve. I wish I could take him seriously but he has to be one of the worst villains in the show.

There aren’t many specific episodes to call out for season 1 as great ones since this was the weakest season. The Iron-Man team up against the Living Laser was pretty fun. The big two part episode with Green Goblin wasn’t bad either and Venom certainly got to appear quite a bit. On the whole I think they dropped the ball with Venom though. His never really gets around to being with Eddie Brock and is instead treated like more of a power up the whole time. Harry puts him on sometimes and then loses him again. Eventually the writers would decide on his roll, but I definitely didn’t miss his Harry days from season 1.

As for the characters, most of them are similar to how they are in the comics so I’ll really focus on the main ones. It’s interesting to see a young version of Luke Cage and Iron Fist. It’s an odd choice since part of Cage’s whole personality is that he’s a gritty guy who’s seen things and makes for a perfect anti hero to hire for a mission. Here he’s just a nice guy who goes to school. Iron Fist doesn’t have to be changed much as he’s just younger but they overplay his formal mannerisms at times. He’s probably the most mature member of the group though. White Tiger is the confident member of the group who always talks a good game, but she doesn’t really have any special abilities (At least for the first 20+ episodes) so it’s a little tough for her to keep up in a fight. Nova is the best member by far. He’s always pranking Spiderman and getting the last laugh in. Of course since he has the Power Cosmic, that is usually used as more plot hax than anything else. He should win every fight, but he just tends to miss every shot. That can be a little annoying.

Season 2 focuses on the Sinister Six. This means…you guessed it, Doctor Octopus is back in his full glory. He has assembled his team of powerful fighters like the Kraven, and Electro. Spiderman must put a stop to these guys while also helping the Lizard not get hurt in the process. He knows that a scientist is effectively trapped within the Lizard, but he’s doing his best to keep it under control. The Rhino is a kid underneath his guise, but the guy can’t seem to make up his mind on whether he wants to be a hero or not so it’s a little hard to help him out.

The Kraven episode may not sound great on paper as it’s just a team up with Spiderman and White Tiger, but it was actually pretty solid. The show did a lot of justice to Kraven as he was actually a real threat and always had good fight scenes in the show. I definitely enjoyed the episode at any rate and White Tiger finally got a big power up. The first Sinister Six episode also came on and it was pretty fun. It was rather rushed though as Spiderman had to beat them all in a single episode.

Then we had the Carnage episode which was fun. Again, I don’t think the Symbiotes were handled all that well and the show should have looked to the 90’s cartoon for inspiration but I suppose it did its best. I gotta give the Stan Lee team up episode a shoutout as well. Who would have thought that Spiderman would be teaming up with the One Above All? There were one liners for days in this episode. For a slightly more serious episode, the Deadpool guest star was fun. It was a little sad that Spiderman’s friends immediately preferred him, but Deadpool is charismatic. He always makes for good humor as well.
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Season 3’s big hook is that it adapts the Spider Verse storyline from the comics. A mystical artifact is broken so Spiderman has to go to various universes to find the pieces. He meets up with Ultimate Spiderman, Noir, Spiderham, and other versions of himself along the way. It was a fun multi part epic, but the main problem was that it was incredibly repetitive. Every episode had the exact same format and story telling. It was cool seeing every Spiderman admit that the main one was the best every time, but it didn’t always seem sincere because of how much it was spammed. The show maybe laid it on a little thick that time. Spiderman was definitely a team player in this season as he ended up teaming with the Avengers and then forming his own Warriors group. They definitely kept Parker busy and this led to his original team from season 1 being gradually written out of the show.

The Avengers two part event was fun, but mostly just the second part. The first one didn’t really get to go anywhere since Loki and Spiderman switched bodies. The second at least gave us a fight between the Avengers and Spiderman’s new team. Agent Venom was cool since this was a route I could finally get behind for Venom. I miss his classic Brock form, but I suppose this is the next best thing. It’s just a shame that he got so weak after this. I basically already covered the Spider Verse. It would have been a lot better if not for being so repetitive.

The Crossover with Jessie was interesting since I didn’t even remember that the show existed. On a more epic note, the show adapted the Contest of Champions Mobile Game and that was a lot of fun. Honestly, I wish we could have gotten closer to 10 episode of this as there are so many cool fights you can pull off with this concept. There was quite a bit of plot hax at times and Spiderman did a bad job of picking his teams, but this one really took advantage of how the show loves its guest stars. Spiderman could basically choose from anyone that he’s met so there were a bunch of options. It wasn’t handled quite as well as the Secret Wars from the 90’s show, but it was good nonetheless.

Finally, Season 4 had the return of the Sinister Six. Yeah…the show decided to give them another season. I guess they felt they could do more with them. This last season was certainly the most ambitious though as it had quite a lot of plot lines and multi parters including the return of the Spider Verse. By the end of the show you had certainly gotten used to Spiderman and his friends.

Hydra is usually rather boring, but the opening two parter was good because it saw the debut of the Scarlet Spider and started the ball rolling. Unlike the first 3 seasons, this one had an ongoing plot that would last the entire season. Who is the Scarlet Spider and can they trust him? The Scarlet Spider is a fun character because he’s constantly insulting Spiderman and just generally being a jerk. Yeah, he’s definitely not a nice guy, but he’s not supposed to be one anyway. This is just how he rolls. Of course, it is far too late when they try to get us to feel bad for him. That’s the drawback of being this kind of character and making certain decisions.

The next episode was also pretty solid as Miles is brought into the picture and becomes a main character. The two Spidermen have to team up with Doctor Strange to defeat his version of the Green Goblin and it’s pretty intense. This character is consistently portrayed to be too powerful for the heroes so they have to use a lot of teamwork to keep him down. Miles is a fun enough Spiderman even if he can be a little overconfident despite not usually lasting too long in a fight. His electric abilities really help to give him an edge in a fight and make up for that experience though. He’ll only get better as he keeps on fighting.

The next episodes get pretty intense as the team faces the threat of a traitor in their midst. Agent Venom is put in a wheelchair and Harry falls into a coma. It’s hard to picture any of this happening in the first 3 seasons as it’s actually rather dark and the plot is very serious. The Sinister Six then returns and this time they go after Aunt May along with one of the traitors so Spiderman is forced to get serious about this ordeal. Another character seemingly dies at the end although we know that nobody ever dies in comic land.

We get back to back sagas as The Symbiotes slowly take over the world in one 3 part adventure and then the Spider Verse returns as the guest stars have to unite once more. Both of these events were pretty fun and the extra episodes really let the show cut loose. Even Gwen Stacy’s recent Spider-Gwen form gets to make an appearance. The Spider Slayers 3 part story was cool because Mary Jane finally got powers. She absorbed the Carnage symbiote and became one of the stronger characters in the series. That was definitely a nice upgrade to keep her up to par with the others. Mary Jane had a very small role throughout the series so her fans were glad to see the writers bringing her back in again. After being in season 1, she basically vanished for all of 2 and 3. From here on out, Mary Jane would be a main character although the series only had a few episodes left.
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Finally, the Graduation Day 2 parter was a good way to end the series. It may have been embarrassing for everyone else as they were stuck in a bubble and couldn’t break it the whole time, but we had to prove to the world once and for all that Spiderman is the ultimate fighter. Seeing him save everyone is always pretty satisfying. Yeah, as you can tell I was pretty satisfied with season 4 as a whole Honestly, it was a great season and would have gotten a solid 8 if the first 3 didn’t exist. That being said, 3 7 star seasons and 1 8 star season ultimately end up equaling a 7. No matter how great that last season was, it can’t just bring up the curve all on its own.

That’s why it’s a shame that the show didn’t get one more season. Honestly, if the quality had continued to look up like season 4, then this really could have gone down as one of Marvel’s best titles. The ongoing plot had started to get rock solid and this is where the past 100 episodes of situations and characters popping up could have come in handy. With the sheer amount of heroes in the story, the show could have adapted any story arc that it wanted too. I could see the show deciding to tackle the Civil War and it would actually be able to do it justice in this version. It was not to be, but it was a fun glimpse at what the show could have been. Just imagine if all 100+ episodes had been at this level of quality.

One area where the show always excelled was with its animation. It was stylized to look like the iconic 90’s cartoon, but with up to date graphics. It was a little more streamlined and had a dark color scheme that worked well with the night time moments. I’d probably still make the case that the 90’s show ultimately won as its character designs were a step up, but the show definitely delivered in this department. Compared to the other current titles like Guardians of the Galaxy, or the upcoming Spiderman show this is a world of improvement. I would mention Avengers, but the animation for that one got considerably better with Season 2. It’s still a little behind Spiderman, but it’s close enough at this point where I didn’t really need to deliver any burns. There’s unfortunately nothing to say about Ultimate Spiderman’s soundtrack. There’s not a single memorable tune in the entire show.

The current Marvel shows all like to place a big emphasis on comedy. I suppose they just don’t want their shows to get too serious and it helps them gel better with the live action films which use a similar format. That being said, the TV show writers are not necessarily at the same level at times so many of the jokes can be forced. This is Spiderman as well so you can bet that the jokes are constant. They don’t really bother me for the most part, but it does cement the fact that the show won’t be known as an epic one. It can’t quite reach the same level of intensity as Justice League, X-Men, or Avengers EMH as a result. It’s a fun show with a lot of action and cool guest stars, but it never gets past the “Fun” aspect of the show. That means it is relegated to a solid seven, but can’t hit the elusive 8.

That’s not to say that the show didn’t try. As you saw with some of the episodes I hand picked above, it did have some pretty serious ones. The show also had a lot of really good fights that actually had good hand to hand and really solid animation. It’s just that for every great episode I showed above, there were also some really lackluster ones or even downright bad episodes. Some did have crude humor which could be annoying and other episodes could be boring. Every show has a few episodes which aren’t that good, but they’re balanced out by a higher average.

One thing the show actually did well was give characters character development and keep the universe moving. A lot actually happened during the 100 episodes and most of the characters are vastly different from how they started. New designs, new powers, and even personality shifts. The status quo wasn’t the same as when the show started which is important. The show wasn’t always consistent with this and I do get annoyed that Spiderman’s spider sense didn’t always work, but I suppose that’s bound to happen in any Spiderman show.

I can count on one hand the number of characters that the show actually wrecked: Vulture, Doctor Octopus, and Rhino. Those are the main ones anyway and season 4 was able to redeem Doctor Octopus. Beyond that, everyone was pretty true to form and it was fun seeing them all show up. Spiderman was also a fun lead as he was ultimately the hero that we all know and love. By the end he was pretty experienced and wise as well since he became a leader and got to learn how to lead in a few episodes. He got serious when he had too and was also a sharp fighter. It really felt like you grew with the characters in this series.
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Overall, Ultimate Spiderman is a fun show. Perhaps it’s not what everyone was expecting or hoping for, but I was satisfied with it. I’m still glad it exists and that it lasted so long. The fact that it was entertaining and came up with so many different stories is nothing to sneeze at. It’s probably the best Spiderman show next to the 90’s one and it does come very close to matching that one as well. Its longer length gives it more replay value at any rate. The next show is coming out soon so I’ll see how that one turns out, but my expectations are a little lower. I’m going to miss all of the guest stars and the rich history this show brought along with it, but I suppose it’ll be nice to go back to having a solo Spiderman story for a chance with occasional guest stars rather than constant ones. Hopefully it can work through its poor animation and deliver a pretty good product.

Overall 7/10

Angelic Layer Review

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I read the Angelic Layer manga a long time ago. It was really fun with its constant action and was something that I didn’t really expect Clamp to do. The action scenes hold up as some of the best drawn ones out there. The only thing holding it back was some of the annoying characters who had a running gag of trying to embarrass the main character. The anime did a good job of fixing that although it came at the expense of the fight scenes. They’re still around, but the characters have been nerfed. It’s definitely a trade off I can live with and the anime definitely ended up being a great title.

Misaki has always lived a cheerful life with her grandparents as she went through school and made some friends. That being said, she’s always wanted to see her Mom again after being separated across the country. The Mom is busy with her work so she’s never had time to visit or write or phone so Misaki figures that going to Tokyo could solve this. Once she arrives, she sees an Angelic Layer battle being presented on a TV screen. It is essentially a sport where you fight using telepathically controlled mini robots called Angels. A mysterious man named Icchan helps her pick one out and get introduced to the sport. Along the way she makes a few friends like Kotaro, Tamayo, and Hatoko. Can Misaki make it all the way to the world championships and take the crown? If she does, then maybe she can work up the courage to find her mother, but perhaps she won’t have to look very far.

Right away you can tell that the show has aged well. The visuals are nice and crisp with all of the characters and backgrounds looking sharp. This is great for the fight scenes since they are pretty fluid and you can get into the show immediately. The directing and writing are just on point as some shows take a few episodes to get going, but this one catches fire immediately. The soundtrack is also quite good. The opening is fun and iconic and the ending is excellent. It’s a very emotional yet hype theme that plays during the final 30-40 seconds of each episode. It is especially powerful in episode 13 with the DBZ esque cliffhanger but works well in all of them. Sadly they change the ending for the second half of the show. It’s not a bad ending, but it’s a lot happier so it no longer works well with the cliffhangers. The rest of the soundtrack is also pretty good with some nice battle themes in there. One of them even sounds a whole lot like a Toonami promo theme from back in the day. It’s pretty nostalgic. A minor detail that is also fun to notice is how each tournament stage gets grander and grander. The National Tournament stage is easily the most prestigious one of all and the show did a good job of making them all different.

As I mentioned earlier, the fights are a little different than in the manga. Instead of the more intense blows like DBZ where characters are smashing each other into the ground with enormous force, they’re played out more like if they are dolls or angels. They attack but not with enough force to make you think the stadium is going to fall over and that’s because the show acts a little more like a Shojo the whole time. I’d prefer the manga fights, but these are still good as well. You just don’t want to compare them all that much. The actual hand to hand is still really good and we do get one really intense battle with a lot of craters in episode 13. The Champion’s angel also has a very impressive showing during her first round as she moves so fast that she can dodge while appearing to be in the same place. That may have been a little too exaggerated since she was nerfed heavily after that, but it’s how it has to be I suppose.

There is a little more romance in the show than the manga. I suppose that’s to be expected and at one point the show has quite a few people trying to get in on the action. Person A likes B, but B likes C, C likes E, D likes A. We even get a whole episode for this which of course takes place at the beach. One good thing about this being a Shojo is that the beach isn’t used for fanservice which is great. The show completely dodges that speedbump which is awesome. Many titles struggle there, but not this one. As far as romances go, it’s not all that bad either. Tsubasa was still the best in this area, but at least it’s not too drawn out. Take that episode away and the rest of the series barely messes with that. I think there were only 2 episodes total which focused on it.

Another area where the series excels is its pacing. It never drags on and there are fights in virtually every single episode. It’s always nice to see and while I doubt any title has a big fight in all of its episodes (Probably some exception somewhere) this one came close. The birthday celebration episode didn’t have a fight, but it had a cool hammer and plate minigame that was fun because I remember it from another show, but can’t recall where. It seems like a pretty fun game where you definitely need solid reflexes.
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Misaki is a great character and someone that most other leads can learn from. She’s a very happy character who is always trying to make the best of things. She enters every battle with a smile and doesn’t hold grudges against any of the bullies. She simply wins them over to her side and keeps on going. Misaki tries not to let other characters worry either and keeps everything to herself. Of course, that ultimately puts more of a strain on her, but she is definitely a noble character through and through. Unfortunately because of her happy nature, she is also highly susceptible to mind games from her opponents and is a little too trusting. I suppose these traits were bound to occur though and it’s still a good thing that she is such an optimistic person. I believe that I liked her a lot in the manga as well, but the anime did an even better job of developing her character. She’s easily one of the most heroic ones I’ve seen.

Her Angel Hikaru makes for a perfect partner. Her design is on point and the fact that she is a speed model with solid attacks is an added bonus. She even reminds me of Megaman.exe because of the chest emblem she has. I’d swear that it’s practically the same. Hikaru is also so strong that the show constantly has to write excuses to have the opponents even stand a chance against her. Misaki only has 2-3 fair fights during the whole series as in just about every bout Misaki is either distracted or the opponent is cheating to the main character doesn’t just steamroll the opponent. It’s definitely a good change of pace and I rather like main characters who are pros as opposed to just barely winning each time. It can be annoying as these gimmicks keep almost stopping Misaki, but she always gets through.

Icchan is one of the main supporting characters. He’s the head scientist involved with creating Angelic Layer, but he makes sure not to tell Misaki this. He discreetly helps her from the shadows as she progresses in the game and knows more than he lets on. The character has been improved from the manga although he still acts a little iffy near the beginning. He’s a decent character I suppose although his mean pranks can go way too far at some points. It’s always hard to know what to think of him, but at the very least he is a charismatic boss.

Hatoko is Misaki’s first rival and one of the stronger characters in the series. She is sort of like the Chaud and Protoman of the series as she defeats her opponents in an instant and is known as one of the best players in the league. Her Angel is another speed type who is also very powerful. Her fight with Misaki was definitely a lot of fun and it’s just a shame that she didn’t really get to do anything for the second half of the series. Her fight against Shirahime was also very anticlimactic and disappointing. I never really like 1 hit KO matches since it’s hard to do anything epic in that time compared to a more prolonged fight. That’s why Shirahime vs Hikaru is probably the best fight of the series although Kaede’s battle with Misaki is very close. The fact that Hatoko is only around 5-8 years old makes her even more fun since she is such a little kid but can still fight it out with these professionals. She shows that age really doesn’t matter in this game as it’s all about the skills.

Kotaru is the main guy in the series, but he doesn’t have an Angel of his own so that makes things a little tricky for him. He’s Hatoko’s big brother though so that helps him stay relevant. I’m not much of a fan of his to be honest as he spends the whole show getting pushed around by just about everyone. He does get his own romance plot twice as he goes after Misaki but ultimately allows himself to fall behind to the rival and goes with the childhood friend. This felt a bit like a rebound as he was clearly losing the battle for Misaki and went from not even acknowledging Tamayo as anything other than a friend to completely getting over Misaki (Aside from a brief relapse during the fight) in the course of a day or 2. That romance was a little rushed to be honest, but we’ll roll with it.

Tamayo is definitely more likable than Kotaru. She’s a good friend who constantly roots for Misaki during the tournament and also isn’t petty. She realizes that her chances of getting Kotaru grew slimmer when Misaki joined up, but never resented her for it. Tamayo even told herself that blaming Misaki wouldn’t be fair and she stayed true to herself with that. So even if I didn’t really buy into the romance, Tamayo handled the situation as best as possible so she deserves some points for that. I’m also glad that she can fight and doesn’t take any nonsense from the bullies.

Ohjiro is one of the hype characters as he was the tournament runner up the year before the series started. His Angel Wizard is incredibly powerful because of his seemingly impervious defense. That being said, while I like Wizard, I don’t like Ohjiro. He comes off as too much of a flirt at times and it’s hard to ever know if he’s actually here to help. His prank to Misaki to build up her courage was just bizarre. The guy just rubbed me the wrong way from the start.

Aunt Shoko is a recurring character, but her role never gets that major. Since she is a reporter she is able to follow Misaki around discreetly as she keeps up with the tournament. She’s a nice character and helps support Misaki when possible. Misaki’s mother Shuko has a pretty different personality which causes the two to differ quite a bit. Shuko’s plot was vastly expanded in the anime compared to the manga and certainly made her a better character. I definitely still don’t agree with Shuko’s decisions, but at least they had a decent rationale to them and Shuko did manage to win in a pretty hype way most of the time.

Shuko basically decided to abandon Misaki because her legs were going bad and she decided not to return until they were fixed. The problem is that nothing could fix them in their current state so she kept pushing off the reunion over and over again. Eventually it got up to the point where she couldn’t work up the nerve to meet her. She suddenly decides to do it right before the finals which may not have been a good move. Honestly she probably could have handled it a lot better, but it was definitely an intense way to start the ball rolling, that’s for sure. I’m glad that the show doesn’t even try to hide the fact that she’s Misaki’s Mom from the start because the plot point just seems very clear. Even when the Angel first appears on the screen as Misaki arrives in Tokyo to find her Mom you can basically guess where this is going. The plot could possibly get a little over dramatic at times, but all in all it was a fun little subplot and while Misaki took it pretty hard I can almost guarantee that most characters would have taken it a lot worse. Misaki still handled the situation with her usual dignity and politeness even being the one to ultimately break the ice.

Sai is another one of the big rivals and became the second major threat to Misaki after she defeated Hatoko. Her ice Angel is pretty good since it is a power type but can still move with great speed. It was one of the best fights in the series because there were no gimmicks or mind games. It was simply a really good fight with both characters doing their best to adapt to the situation. Well…actually I kind of forgot about this, but there was a sand gimmick now that I think about it. Still a great fight, but once again the opponent needed an edge to stand a chance against Hikaru. Sai’s a pretty likable character as well as she stays tough and tries to win the tournament for her late sister. Her motives are definitely a lot better than half of the characters in this tournament and she always keeps up a tough exterior.
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There’s also Kaede who is Sai’s friend, but a lot more morally dubious. Kaede believes in winning no matter the cost so she allows her Angel to overheat in the hopes of winning the battle. It can permanently damage her angel, but she doesn’t care as long as she wins. While this does make for a great fight, I have to say that I lost a lot of respect for her after that. Kaede’s a little too brutal and forgets that this is just a game. Misaki probably should have called her out on this a little more, but maybe the loss was enough of a message to send. Kaede’s Angel is definitely cool with its neat fighting skills and good dodging abilities. It reminded me of Rosalina quite a bit.

Ringo is a celebrity who fights Misaki early on and has some pretty good abilities. She can fire off invisible blasts of wind and is good in close quarters as well. She’s a pretty fun character to have even if she starts quite the panic during Misaki’s Birthday. The circumstances were only iffy because Misaki didn’t announce her decision in time though so I can’t blame Ringo for it. Ringo’s a fairly minor character in the series, but she appeared enough to be mentioned. There’s also a random boy named Misaki who decides to fight Misaki to prove that boys are superior, but he definitely doesn’t look too good. That was back before Misaki (the main character) could beat everyone with ease so that was his best chance and he still couldn’t take the win. The guy is comically petty to the point where he was an amusing character. You knew that he was doomed from the start though as Misaki was able to beat him while dancing. On that note, I have to say that the show knew when to pour on the disrespect. The heroes including Misaki can be absolutely brutal to their opponents at times. They don’t mean to show off, but it just ends up happening.

Madoka is another one of Misaki’s opponents who acts like a bully and resorts to cheating. It’s a shame since she seemed like a decent fighter, but this proved that she wasn’t actually all that tough. Her sister was just as bad if not worse. Misaki fought quite a few bullies or at least mean spirited characters like this. Another one complained that being tall was annoying and short people always got to have their victories. Misaki promptly beat her and then converted the bully. It’s great how Misaki turns so many lives around just by beating people in front of a national audience. Misaki has definitely made the country a better place.

Finally we have Ogata. He’s the main comic relief of the series, but I had to give him a mention because you can’t help but feel bad for the guy sometimes. I mean, he does ask for it on a few occasions as he accuses Icchan of iffy stuff and makes some big mistakes, but other times he means well and still gets into trouble. Inviting the main characters to the BBQ seems totally innocent..he didn’t realize that Misaki’s Mom would be there and that things could be tricky. The punishments can also be pretty mean like being attacked by an alien or getting tied up. He didn’t ask for this!

I suppose it should be mentioned that the ending of the show is a little cheesy. For once I wouldn’t call it rushed or anything and I was glad that the final episode was basically just one big fight, but they went overboard with trying to make it seem hopeless. Hikaru lost about 80% of her health in a flash and then got hit by a super blast. That should have finished off Hikaru and she stayed down for several minutes. Somehow her health didn’t hit 0 though…then she got hit again…and still had more health while the final boss lost. I would have been okay with that if Hikaru had activated a barrier or had a health regeneration abilitty, but it made no sense in context. She just doesn’t have that much health. Athena was just hyped to no return and it cost the writers a bit. Even in her first fight when she was moving at insane speeds, Athena lost that ability for all of her future fights. It was there for shock value, but then the writers realized that this would be too overpowered. It’s definitely something to watch out for as shows tend to bite off more than they can chew. Sai’s fight with Shuko was also cheesy, but just because neither one of them decided to fight seriously so Shuko won with ease. Isn’t that a little disrespectful to the contestants who lost to these two fighters earlier? I mean, it happens in Super Smash tournaments so it is slightly realistic, but just annoying to watch.

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Overall, Angelic Layer is a great show. It’s a lot of fun right from the start. There is constant action throughout it and the pacing is always on point. The main cast is very strong and I could have easily seen this show going over 50 episodes. I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel series someday where the characters have to fight new opponents or defend the world from evil Angels. I’d also like a sequel since Misaki is past the point of having any doubts so the villains would have to get stronger to deal with her since they can’t play with her psyche anymore. There’s a lot of potential here and a crossover with Megaman.EXE would also be fun since the two titles have so many similarities. If you haven’t seen the show yet, I’d highly recommend doing so. It’s aged phenomenally well and is probably one of the more underrated titles out there. After all, when was the last time you heard this show mentioned in any capacity?

Overall 8/10

Toriko Review

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It’s time to look at one of the more recent Shonen Jump titles. Toriko got pretty big in its prime and arguably became known as one of Shonen Jump’s top 3 ongoing titles. It even got to play a role in a crossover episode featuring Luffy and Goku as well. The series has a fairly unique premise and I like the focus on food. That being said, the premise is also what ends up hurting it quite a lot as there is a considerable amount of animal violence and the series took a long while to actually get any traction going. I wouldn’t call this one a success although it had one of the best Shonen Jump climaxes of all time. At least it ended with a bang!

The story follows Toriko, a legendary Gourmet hunter. He is known as one of the very best and has taken down just about every animal out there. Gourmet Hunters hunt down food but a lot of that food comes from animals of course. Alternately, they find things like rare honey in volcanoes and underwater foods. It’s a rough job. Komatsu is a local cook and he wants to be the greatest cook in the world. When Toriko offers to take him around as a cooking partner, Komatsu leaps at the chance. The two of them go on many adventures and bond by the end. They’ll have to deal with significant gourmet threats though like Midora, Aliens, and Starjun. Whatever happens though, they’re ready for it!

Lets get this out of the way. One of the huge problems with Toriko is the nonstop action violence. It’s a series about hunting animals after all so you can bet that the series does this constantly. A positive score was out of the question right away from this, but at least the series played its cards right to at least get itself a spot at the middle of the rankings. That will have to do I suppose. The animal stuff is such a downer though.

It’s a shame because the series ends on such a high note. The last arc is essentially just nonstop fights involving all of the big characters of the series. The 8 Kings, Midora, Toriko, Starjun, Jiro, The Nitro, etc. Everyone gets a piece of the pie and here is where the 40-50 volumes of hyping up the characters all paid off. It was everything that I could want in a climax and it could possibly be the best one for a Shonen. It may not have necessarily been my favorite cast, but it was just so ambitious and it was almost half a year of nonstop epicness. The main series that could rival this one would be Reborn! as that also had a really epic climax.

Unlike Reborn! Toriko wasn’t consistent up until that part though. A lot of the arcs actually weren’t that great. We had a whole arc about trying to steal someone’s balls after all. I mean that literally by the way and the series reveled in weird plots like that. The humor can also be gross as part of the plot was that they had to…well I’m not even going to go there. Just remember that the hunters will eat anything. One of the big plot points of the series is that eating rare foods makes the main characters stronger. Their hair sticks up and they get on edge while yelling a lot. These people take their food seriously and practically explode every time as we’ll have whole pages of them barely being able to stay conscious from the pure joy of it all. It’s all so extreme that you have to wonder how they’d react to a good slice of pizza. The main characters also have demons inside of them which like food and take control sometimes. Toriko’s even turn real at times and show up to help. It’s fairly meta, but the author never actually finishes this plot up. I guess it’s up to the fans to pick up the pieces.

The Century Soup arc was probably the first time where the villains finally popped up and it felt like a plot was brewing. That one was handled well. I also enjoyed the 4 vs 4 Beasts arc as Toriko and friends fought some giant monsters that were actually all part of the same monster. Of course, the stronger heroes could have ended those arc in an instant if they wanted too, but I suppose they just wanted to see how Toriko would handle it.

By the end of the series, I like how the author tried to cram in as many feats as possible. I feel like he was making it as exaggerated as possible on purpose just to try and show up the other titles. Characters surviving millions of years going by in an instant, breaking planets and going massively FTL? These feats basically start to throw them ahead of DBZ with ease, but it all feels too easy. It also invites a lot of plot hax by the end though with the inclusion of Neo who can eat anything and Food Luck.

Food Luck is basically a plot button that allows any character to survive any situation because they were destined too. Food Luck can nullify attacks and nullify attacks which makes it very handy to use and it has no limits. It can run out, but that just depends on how lucky you are. I could have done without this part to be honest.
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The series is pretty good about not having much fanservice. It’s pretty much nonexistent for the most part. Even when we get some tired tropes like Toriko getting turned into a girl, it’s not played up too much. This is good since the series already has more than enough problems at its plate (See what I did there?) without adding any more. Take away the animal violence and this would be an easy 8. Take away a lot of the gross humor and it could jump up to a 9. It has enough positives and epic scenes to pull it off, but to be a 9 you certainly can’t have a bunch of negatives either.

Lets talk about the characters. There are quite a lot of important ones so this section is going to be very long. Toriko is the main character and he’s a fairly good one although he can be annoying at times. It’s a little hard to hold the fact that he’s a hunter against him and he makes sure to eat whatever he hunts….but it does make it hard to like the guy. He also prioritizes eating over everything which can be extreme. At one point the world is literally being destroyed around him, but he doesn’t care since he’s going to have a feast. He takes the most annoying traits from Goku and Luffy and places them together. Granted, he does have a lot of hype moments as well and can be serious when necessary. He’s the kind of charismatic guy that would be easy to be friends with, but would be a lot harder to be with long term. He does put everyone in danger constantly. Going on a journey with him like Komatsu did for several years would be way too stressful. As it stands, he’s not the best main character. He’s good enough where he doesn’t hold the series back, but just isn’t downright great. By the way, Toriko’s powers are effectively that he’s really strong. He can use his muscles for incredible punches and even turns them into projectiles. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.

Komatsu is the main sidekick and unfortunately I can’t really say that he is a likable character. He is very annoying at all times. He can’t fight, but he has a lot of food luck so he can survive just about anything. His knife is so sharp that it can cut foods so well that they are ready centuries ahead of when they’re supposed too. He gets a lot of hype for sure, but it’s like having Usopp as a main character. It just doesn’t work and to be honest, I prefer Usopp. I dunno, Komatsu isn’t very funny and he’s certainly not all that useful. It’s good that Toriko and friends have a cook of course, but they’re cool with eating things raw so they probably would have survived anyway. I was actually waiting for Komatsu to get a super form or something, but it never happened. Ah well, that’s the way it goes I suppose.

Sunny is another one of the 4 Kings along with Toriko. His hair is his special ability as it can turn into a fairly unbreakable barrier or be used as a very versatile attack. His hairs can move at incredible speeds after all so they are difficult to properly evade or block. Add to that the fact that he has monster strength and speed like every other character and you have a tough contender. I’d consider him to be the 2nd most dangerous member in the group. He’s a decent character. His gimmick about not liking ugly things and avoiding them isn’t half bad. It’s one that I can get behind at any rate and I wouldn’t say that it’s overplayed.

Zebra gets a lot of hype and is supposed to be the strongest of the 4 Kings. I dunno, for some reason I just couldn’t buy into it. It was hard to ever really consider Zebra as a threat either since Toriko always appeared to be even stronger than him. His sound abilities are nice though as Zebra can make barriers with them or let his voice travel across large areas to help others out. It has a lot of versatile applications to the ability to be sure. He’s not a bad character, but he just ends up lagging behind the others.

Coco is the final member and he is arguably the weakest. He makes up for this with his useful poison abilities that get around the whole strength angle. After all, it doesn’t matter how strong or weak you are against him. If you’re in range of his poison you’ll be dropping dead very quickly. It’s a very handy ability and it surprisingly continues to work even towards the end of the series. Naturally it can’t do anything against the 8 Beasts or any of the final bosses, but it serves Coco well in just about all of his fights. He’s a nice enough guy.
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Rin is the main heroine, but she surprisingly doesn’t appear much at all. You know that she is the main heroine based on the ending and she is always going after Toriko, but she rarely ever contributes to the plot. I don’t even know why the author added her at all. Maybe just to have some kind of romance just to tick off the box. Regardless she has to be one of the most bland heroines out there and I was not a fan.

Ichiryu was a great character and ended up being one of the best in the series. He’s also one of the strongest characters without a doubt as he was able to hold his own against opponents like Midora without even using his spirit animal. In this universe that’s essentially like going into a battle without any weapons or special abilities. His physical abilities and stats were insanely off the charts. His Minority World ability is what makes him even more dangerous as it reverses anything. This allows him to fly by reversing gravity and he can make a full recovery from any injury by reversing it. Moreover, he can reverse the injury over to his opponent and this ability has absolutely no limits. Ichiryu can reverse anything, life, a battle’s outcome, etc. He only ends up losing because he fights someone who also has Minority World so it’s a battle of who can reverse at the last possible instant. The series got pretty high tier for sure and again it’s worth mentioning that Ichiryu fought without his monster the whole time and never ended up getting serious. He’s a pretty stand up guy even if he didn’t take the stakes seriously enough.

Starjun is another one of the big villains of the series. Gradually he becomes more of a rival though and he works as one a lot better than Zebra. He is actually a threat for a while. Naturally he starts to get surpassed once he stops being a full villain, but that always seems to happen. His flame abilities are good and beyond that his physical abilities are on par with Toriko. He’s a pretty solid character and is probably the second best villain. I’m glad he got to have a final with of his own as many of the supporting characters weren’t so lucky. Starjun earned his.

Grinpatch is a bloodsucking villain who is pretty strong. One good hit from his straw and you’ll be missing a fatal amount of blood. It’s a very unique weapon since I can’t think of anyone else who uses straws. That being said, it’s a little tough to take the power seriously. Grinpatch is super tough so underestimate him at your own peril, but he wasn’t exactly my favorite villain. Especially since his ability was usually used for animal violence scenes.

Tommyrod is one of the first big villains to show up in Toriko. He attacks using a lot of bugs and sort of is a bug as well. It made for a very intense fight between him and Toriko and he later fought Sunny as well I believe. I don’t care much for his powers since using insects means that some will always be injured in the process. His personality is fine though and he’s an interesting villain. He’s certainly lethal and quite memorable. I also liked his design and the super forms that came with him. The series was always particularly strong in the villains department.

The Nitro started off as a one time villain monster, but gradually we learned of a secret Illuminati version of them. There are 8 and they essentially want to roast the planet. Given the heavy influence on food in this series it was definitely a fitting plan. Most of them never ended up getting much in the way of personality and it’s one of those cases where the anime would need to flesh them out a bit more. That being said, they made for really good villains. I liked the designs and these guys were immensely powerful. It was just their bad luck that they had to go up against Jiro. They may have had a good shot against Toriko, fighting all 8 of them probably would have been too much for him.
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Midora is my favorite character in the whole series. He’s just awesome and the character kept on getting cooler and cooler as the series went on. He’s one of the big villains, but he never really gets to fight Toriko. That part was interesting as the two just don’t cross paths much. He ends up holding a larger group against the Nitro monsters and turns his attention to them. He definitely has the saddest origin story from the cast. While he is a villain, he’s not being evil just to get a good meal like Acacia or doing it just to rile everyone up like Joie. It’s all about getting people to appreciate good food and if they won’t do so willingly, he’ll have to destroy them. His ability is also very similar to Bass.exe’s which is an extra bonus. He can copy any ability after seeing it or being hit by it. He is virtually invincible and really cannot be defeated. Of course nothing is absolute in a series like Toriko. Midora just stole the show and it’s amazing how much character development he got. You could argue that he was the main cast at the end of the series instead of Toriko. He got fight after fight after fight.

Chiyo was one of the big villains in Toriko before the final arcs. She may be an old lady, but she can certainly fight. She had an epic battle with Setsuno and she is certainly very aggressive. Her fighting style reovlves around continuous attacks and simply overpowering her opponents. She’s incredibly powerful and a very cool enemy. Setsuno is essentially her heroic counterpart. The two of them are extremely similar, but Setsuno has the slight edge in combat. Who would have thought that two old ladies would give us such amazing fights. A third old timer is Chin Chinchin who can’t quite compete with the other two, but he never goes down without a fight. His battle with Chiyo was definitely very emotional even if you probably could guess the outcome from the beginning.

Froese didn’t get to appear much as she died prior to the series beginning, but her legacy plays a huge role throughout the series. Her death was a sad one and it set quite a few characters off on their paths. She believed that once everyone had a good meal, all war and strife would end. The problem is that some didn’t appreciate her cooking and Midora made it his mission to strike them all down. Her body wouldn’t be able to rest either as she ended up being possessed by Joie. Joie is one of the major villains in the series and she is incredibly powerful. She has a significant amount of food luck and also has a jar that can capture virtually any opponent. She is skilled at using mind games to aid her position as well. Her design was good and she always had a lot of confidence. Joie is definitely a fun villain and is certainly one of the most sinister ones in the whole series. Of course, provoking the characters who can ruin planets and solar systems with ease probably wasn’t a good idea in the end.

Tengu Brunch isn’t a major character, but he got a surprising amount of screen time at the end so I figured he was worth mentioning. He has some thunder abilities. He never really gets to use them in combat, but it’s still useful I guess. I dunno why this character was created to be honest. Takimaru is a nice character. He’s a young Gourmet Knight who does his best to gain more experience and become a useful part of the organization. He’s pretty genuine and also knows how to fight. The guy never became one of my favorite characters or anything, but I didn’t mind him.

Match was a gangster of sorts and he keeps to himself. He really just cares about protecting his friends and colleagues and isn’t the kind of guy who goes out of his way to save the world. I actually liked him a lot, but I can see why he was written out of the series by the end. There just wasn’t any way he could compete with all of these ultra powerful characters who kept popping up by the end. It’s just something that inevitably happens after a while when you’re only human. Still, he did a good job while his power level was still high enough to make a difference.

Melk is very skilled at repairing weapons. She gets a fairly small role, but was influential in helping Komatsu. We also got to see Melk The First who is incredibly strong, but not too smart and got lost for a very long time. The fact that he can also whisper is a little strange. The two were fun characters though so it would have been nice if they could have actually gotten to fight a little. I suppose it just wasn’t to be this time though, but the fact that they were memorable already puts them above a lot of other characters.

Teppei was one of the stronger heroes until he got brainwashed. Then he attempted to destroy Komatsu and invited Toriko’s wrath. His abilities are quite impressive as he can stun characters with a single hit and even held his own against Toriko. I didn’t care for a certain twist he got about the whole mind control thing though. Perhaps it would make some more sense next time I read it, but the plan seemed extremely risky and not all that smart. He made for a much better villain than a hero I’ll admit though. He was a good threat.
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Lets talk about the 8 Kings. These are the animals who rule the world at the moment and their abilities are incredibly overpowered. They get so much hype that they don’t get a serious fight until the very end of the series. Whenever Toriko challenges one, he typically loses in one hit. It’s definitely pretty humbling for him. The Monkey King gets the largest role from all of the Kings as he gets a whole arc to himself. He can throw rocks around the planet in a second and has a lot of crazy physical feats like that. He doesn’t need any special abilities because of this as he overwhelms all opponents with his pure power. He even has a true form which makes him even stronger.

The Horse King is another big one and her power is so great that she developed a special ability out of it. Just by breathing she can generate a whole ecosystem. If she breaths in, then all the oxygen is sucked out of the area and everyone dies in an instant. By breathing out she can rip people in half as she even ripped Toriko in two and can blow the planet up as well. It’s fun how comically overpowered these guys are. There’s also the Dragon King who can harness extra dimensions into one energy blast which can destroy multiple planets in a single shot and still have enough momentum to keep on going. The blast is instantaneous so it is virtually impossible to dodge. The Wolf King can uses its senses to find out everything about you from it and can also mess with your soul. Aside from that its strength and speed are uncanny as per usual.

The Bird King can use shadows to trap you in them next to a fake sun so you boil to death. Beyond that it is also crazy strong. The Snake King is so large that it covers the entire planet yet it is also faster than the speed of light. It can destroy you before your mind knows it is destroyed. This is one of the more overpowered opponents once again. The Deer King may be the strongest of the 8 Kings. It can activate a back channel when its opponent is near. It’s larger than an island so the range is pretty good. It can then speed time up so that millions of years pass by every second for its opponent which means that unless you are totally immortal you’ll die instantly. Even if you are immortal you’ll be weakened from not having eaten or drank anything in that time. It is immune to its effect of course and will attack in the meantime. Finally, we have the Whale King. This one is supposed to be the strongest and I suppose it does have a good ability. Anything near it dies instantly. It’s an automatic ability and one that has no counter. Of course, the multi planet buster laser from the dragon king was able to take him on so I guess striking from afar is your best bet. Still, get anywhere near the huge Moon sized whale and you’re doomed!

Acacia is essentially the final boss of the series and he gets a lot of hype. He taught Jiro, Midora, Ichiryu, and the others after all. One common theme of the series is that the older you are the stronger you’ll be. Toriko and friends are actually quite young so they start the series at the bottom. Then you have guys like Setsuno and Chinchin and higher up are Ichiryu, Jiro, and Midora. Then at the top is Acacia. The series goes out of its way to make the guy as unlikable as possible as he’s extremely mean and gives negative twist after twist. He definitely got a lot of hate at that point and it’s hard to be a fan of this guy. He’s definitely a very powerful figure and has some great battles, but I can’t really say that I like the guy. There were a ton of twists back and forth, but ultimately he was just a little too far gone for me. He had some cool super forms though.

Neo is the monster inside of Acacia and his whole purpose is to eat. His very existence is only there to consume things. Think Galactus but on a larger scale. He plans to eat all of reality and gets stronger with each thing that he eats. He is virtually unstoppable and takes on an onslaught of attacks from the 8 Kings. Neo isn’t made to be sympathetic or anything which is certainly good since I wouldn’t be able to buy it. Sadly his scenes almost always involve animal violence. I would have preferred for Acacia to have just been the main villain so we wouldn’t need Neo, but the latter ended up being the real threat. It also involves the Nitro’s real mission that also doesn’t stop them from being villains. Murder billions to save trillions. I dunno, at that point you’re still murdering so many people that it becomes moot.

Jiro is one of the strongest characters of the series and a good ally to have. From the big 3 he is my least favorite, but that’s more of a compliment to Ichiryu and Midora then it is a slight against him. Jiro gets a lot of hype and delivers on it with his great fight against the Nitro. He also puts up a good fight against Acacia and Neo. His “knocking” ability is essentially like Ki in DBZ or Haki in One Piece. He can punch something which “knocks” it out of existence or knocks it into place. It effectively paralyzes opponents and is almost impossible to recover from. His true form is also very intense.
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Zongeh is the comic relief character of the series, but he didn’t work very well. King from One Punch Man and Hercule from DBZ are two examples of characters who actually served their roles quite nicely. The problem with Zongeh is that he is never funny and also never contributes to the plot. The other two characters actually have their moments and help out when possible. This guy’s just wasting pages whenever he appears and I don’t think the author used him very well.

Terry, Kiss, Quinn are monsters that the main characters use. Terry is the only one who ever gets personality though. Toriko bonds with him near the beginning of the series and Terry really grows by the end and got to be very powerful. I like him a lot and he’s definitely one of the best characters in the series, but I was also sad to see him since the villains naturally go after him quite a bit. Terry is destined to grow up as one of the strongest animals so that is definitely nice, but I’m glad we didn’t get to have too many fights with him. That would have been a little brutal to watch. Terry really is awesome though and I have to say that the name is actually amazing.

I do enjoy Toriko’s art. It feels like Dragon Ball Z a lot of the time. The fights are really intense and the character designs are simple, but effective. It’s always easy to understand everything on the page in an instant and that’s a real credit to the series. I’d consider the art to be very high tier and it helped make the climax that much more exciting. It affects the whole series.

I should warn you that the manga can be incredibly violent though. Throughout the series it is a lot more intense than the average Shonen and gets to Hunter X Hunter levels with people getting ripped apart constantly. The characters are also cannibals for the most part so the final battles involve eating each other. Especially since Neo is the big villain and that’s his whole thing. He eats quite a few characters by the time it’s all over. Tommyrod’s fight with Toriko is certainly brutal and basically any fight with Midora. After all, one of Midora’s big attacks is that he stabs you repeatedly with his tongue. This can also lead to some rather gross characters like Neo. He gets more and more deranged as he fights and just looks like a lot of bumps. While the characters are always bleeding and being filled with holes, the simplistic style of the manga helps it not get too graphic. It’s definitely a full step over something like Bleach, but I definitely wouldn’t say we’re at the point of something like Berserk yet. The anime did a real good job of toning this down considerably while still keeping the fights epic so that’s another alternative for you. If they did the same for the animal violence then I have a feeling I’ll certainly like that version more. Of course, that’d be a review for another day if I ever start that show. So just bear this in mind, the series is pretty intense and that helps it complete its image as a retro Shonen. From the character developments to the fight scenes, it’s like a return to the more brutal days of Shonen Jump.

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Overall, Toriko was a fun manga although it ended up shooting itself in the foot far too often. In the end, a manga about hunting animals is never going to go very far. They should have played up the natural ingredients part and have the heroes just go after foods like Jello and such. That would have been a lot safer. The series inevitably started going after animals less as the plot began and humanoids appeared anyway. The series should have just accelerated the early stuff. After all, when the series got intense, boy did it go all the way. It’s one of the most hype titles I have ever read. It’s really exhilarating. Despite that, I can’t really recommend it all that much. You’ll be better off with just about any other Shonen Jump title. This one’s just pretty weak and as a whole it wasn’t constructed as well as most of the others. I do appreciate the author’s attention to detail though and how he planned everything out. It was very ambitious and there were certainly a lot of concepts thrown around. Ultimately, it just couldn’t pull enough of them off.

Overall 5/10

Ultimo Review

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Ultimo is one of those manga titles where the concept should write itself. Giant robots running around fighting each other should be pretty awesome. Add in a cosmic threat and you’re set. Unfortunately, the manga gets unnecessarily complex, throws in time travel which really hurts the story and just goes in a lot of odd directions. As a result, it wasted a bunch of time so then when it was effectively cancelled it had to rush everything to the end. The ending is very original and will remind you a lot of Madoka Rebellion, but it’s not exactly the ending that many of us were hoping for. It’s just a very odd story.

Yamato is a guy who is fairly down on his luck. He is always caught in awkward situations by his friends and he can’t work up the nerve to talk to Sayama…especially after these incidents. One day he notices a robotic kid called Ultimo or Ulti for short. Ultimo seems to be an antique, but he randomly wakes up one day and takes on a giant robot named Vice in the middle of the street. Both of them are severely damaged, but then Yamato finds out that he is Ultimo’s master. There is apparently a war going on between Doji (That’s the official robot name) of good and evil. I believe there are 12 total with 6 on each side. A mysterious being named Dustan created these Doji so he could see once and for all which side will ultimately emerge victorious. Yamato doesn’t totally understand all of this, but he can’t let the Earth be destroyed so along with Ultimo he gets to work on stopping these guys.

That plot actually isn’t half bad. The first few volumes were pretty good as well as Yamato gradually meets his allies and enemies. The fights are good and I thought the series would be fun. Then the Rune plot happens which I’ll delve into later. Then the low point of the series happened…the time travel. Time travel is typically a really good thing, but this one completely wrecked it. Yamato gets taken to early Japan where we find out he was a Yakuza or something. Every character is doomed to infinite reincarnation by Dunstan and the heroes and villains were deadlocked there. Not only is this a complete waste of time that doesn’t go anywhere, but it is immensely boring.

Yamato finally makes it back to the present, but he arrived too soon so we have to relive a few fights and action scenes again. They’re a little different of course, but not enough so that it really matters. Also, Yamato has control over time so he can just rewind it whenever something happens that he doesn’t like. As a result, it was a little hard to get interested in the plot. That and the fact that the rest of the cast weren’t too interesting despite their overpowered abilities.

Lets talk about the characters. Yamato is the lead and I suppose he isn’t too bad. He’s not quite as tough as you’d imagine despite his punkish design, but he does his best. He learns the abilities after a little while and is then able to fight with the best of them. From there on he did good and at least he always shut Rune down. He does have a tendency to get kidnapped and placed into awkward positions though. Ultimo is a better character even if he can be a little confusing. He is meant to be the ultimate hero, but is actually the shadiest of them all. He lets rage consume him quite a lot and acts like Optimus Prime in the Michael Bay movies. He just wants to completely eradicate all evil and is consumed by this desire. He starts to turn evil during the middle of the series although Yamato has a talk with him about that. He can be real intense, but that’s part of why I like Ultimo. He’s a cool hero and I like the confidence that he has. He may not be too strong without an operator, but shows that he still has a nice degree of skill. The series did a good job of showing why he deserves to be the lead.
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K is the human operator of Vice, the ultimate villain counterpart to Ultimo. Unfortunately, he is a really bad character. He just likes eating instant ramen and is always being ordered around by Vice. He’s a total comic relief character, but is also pure evil. It’s a really weird combo and I’m not totally sure what they were going for with his character. Either way, I don’t think it really worked. I did like Vice though. He had a really good design and at times he reminded me of Bass. He’s naturally not as cool as the latter, but he is definitely in my top 3 favorite characters of the series. He super forms are all really good and he was a very persistent enemy. Vice just kept getting back up over and over again for as many times as needed. He was one guy that would never give up and also didn’t like being a pawn which was a good motivation for trying to go after Dunstan. Too bad that guy was just a little too strong.

Rune is one of the characters that makes the series a little dicey. After Yamato got to experience his original self along with everyone else since they are endlessly reincarnated, Rune also kept her memories. The problem for her is that she was reincarnated into a male body this time, but still wants Yamato to herself. So her female soul is literally trapped in a male body. I don’t think we needed this plot and I know that I definitely didn’t want it included. It gets a lot of screen time and creates some awkward situations that have nothing to do with the plot. I never cared for Rune as a hero, but she isn’t much better as a villain either. This is Jealousy

Dunstan is the big villain of the series but he is comically overpowered. He is made to look just like Stan Lee which is pretty interesting since the guy helped to write this series. He has the powers of all 12 Doji and can use them all at once. The guy can alter time as a result and his physical stats are off the charts. The main cast can’t do anything against him even if they all team up. It’s a rather odd twist to the whole thing since that means their goal of stopping him is unattainable from the start. Either they’ll have to win him over to their side which is possible since he claims to be impartial, but that would also mean that he wouldn’t pay for his crimes. It is a direct result of Dunstan’s actions that a ton of people died after all. Alternately, they can fight him, but they’re doomed. Despite the fact that Dunstan is probably too strong, he makes for a pretty fun villain. He rarely ever gets to appear, but he seems like a nice enough guy. That’s probably meant to help us not look at him in a poor light which doesn’t work, but I’m at least glad that he is a likable villain.
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Musashi is a space cop who travels time. He sounds a lot cooler than he actually is. Despite running through time, he doesn’t really seem to have a clear idea of what to do and he’s also not that tough. He looks good during his initial appearance, but fades into the background after that. We did see a brief glimpse of the future I believe which was fun, but the series could have done more with him. However, like the rest of the humans, he was ditched by the end. His Doji Sophia is pretty useful since she can mess with the 5 senses and even affect the 6th one. It’s hard to hit anything when she’s around since she’ll have you seeing double or everything in reverse. It’s a great ability to have for sure but since every Doji has great abilities it doesn’t necessarily mean that she is the best.

Sayama is the main heroine and it’s definitely hard to get a read on her. She acts nice enough at first but seems less innocent and oblivious than most. She has a pretty big twist at the end and gets some good fight scenes. Her motivations may not make a lot of sense at times, but she seemed like a reasonable character. The twist actually works pretty well if you ask me and makes her more of a deep character, she’s no longer just here for the school scenes.

I keep mentioning how strong the Doji are so lets quickly talk about their abilities. Here are the hero abilities. First off you already know Ultimos. He has complete control of time. This allows him to weave in and out to the past and future to dodge attacks. Unlike other series this does not create alternate dimensions so it can be spammed as much as you like. Unfortunately, Yamato is typically distracted and rarely uses it. When he does, Ultimo is unbeatable which is why he commands the hero group. Service is also a powerful hero. She can manipulate a Doji’s power which includes the time stop. She can simply nullify its abilities along with any other. In a sense, she could be the ultimate fighter as long as she can defeat the enemy. Some of the villains are still more powerful than her even without their abilities after all. Regula’s ability is complete memory manipulation. It can erase all of your memories in an instant and replace them with others. Since he is a hero he doesn’t do this, but you can see how it would be useful in a fight. If your opponent forgets how to fight and thinks you are now an ally, then the match is already won. There are some counters to this though like the emotion Doji as a person can fight with their emotions rather than memories. Pardonner is a healer that can heal any injury in an instant. It can also place illusions within the soul of your mind so that it fools all 5 senses. He’s a great support fighter as he can keep healing all of his allies at any time. Slow has the classic Fate Alteration ability. She can simply alter fate so that an attack which landed actually missed. Altering fate has no real limits, but it takes up a lot of energy so Slow can’t afford to have a long drawn out battle. It’s really hard to counter this, but if you keep attacking without letting up, Slow can run out of energy. Of course, your fate could be to miss and stab yourself by mistake. Finally we have Goge. He manipulates emotions to prevent you from battling or to make you erratic. It’s very similar to the memory manipulation so getting hit by both at the same time would be intense. It’s another very valuable ability to have.

Okay, those were the heroes. Did you memorize all of the abilities? They’re all extremely great and overpowered so the villains have to have really good powers to match. Fortunately they do so lets dive right into them. Vice is the leader so he’s got some good powers. He can steal and copy an opponent Doji ability so he can potentially gather any. He has incredible speed and power and can fire omnidirectional spikes that hit in all directions and can also block any attack. His overall ability is called incompetence which is absolute destruction, but the ability is rather vague and even the wiki doesn’t seem to totally know what it means. Taking it at face value, maybe his opponents will be unable to use their full strength since they’ll be incompetent. Desir is another ability nullification type who can shut down all abilities in decently sized radius. This includes allies though and Ultimo’s time travel seems to be immune. It doesn’t seem as useful as the hero version. Edile has super strength. It’s actually pretty laughable next to everyone else since all Doji have a measure of super strength. Lets move on. Avaro can duplicate himself. He claims that he can fill the whole planet with copies of himself but take that claim lightly. It’s not a bad ability, but not great either. Paresse has a lot of spikes to stab people with. It’s another really weak villain. Wait…the villains must have some good members right? Rage has electrical abilities and was even able to overwhelm Ultimo in a fight. It may not sound very impressive on its own, but I suppose manipulating electricity always has a lot of uses. He can move with that level of speed after all and since the Doji are all robots in a sense, his attacks can be super effective. Jealousy can read the hearts of his opponents. This allows him to know what they will do next with 100% accuracy. This is actually a very good power since it is effectively knowing the future and unlike the mind reading strategy where a character can fight without thinking, your heart always knows what’s up. Finally, Orgullo has fire abilities. Eh…that’s not too impressive although I like fire.
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After writing all of those powers down I think it’s safe to say that the heroes should have a massive advantage. However, they end up dying most of the time so Yamato has to retry the battle. It’s like a video game in that sense. The villains surprisingly have better teamwork at times and it is easier to power up their Doji. That’s because it’s easy to be evil while it’s hard to be good. That’s actually a pretty interesting concept that they decided to tackle and it was actually handled relatively well.

The whole series has a lot of discussion on good vs evil. The characters try to blur the lines between these two and even Yamato starts to be unsure of whether or not there is really a good side. He starts to think that everyone is part good and part evil which is probably the wrong conclusion to have. It’s hard for anyone to switch sides for this reason. The heroes are still trying to destroy the villains after all rather than taking them hostage and they’re doing it all effectively because Dunstan is forcing them into this situation. It’s definitely pretty interesting and the fact that Ultimo keeps acting evil doesn’t help matters. I believe more in the rationale that there is a clear line between good and evil and that line isn’t hard to see. I believe that’s a superhero quote that I saw in a recent article, possibly by Destroyer14 but I can’t remember which.

Now the ending is certainly one that we should talk about. There are some spoilers….to put it lightly, in this paragraph so skip now if you don’t want to see. Are you out? Here we go! In the end, Dunstan wins. Yamato got all of the heroes and villains to unite, but Dunstan just one shotted them all and laughed a bit. He then rewinded time so everyone was still alive and decided to try it in a different setting. He’s going to continue the games, but this time with everyone being friends and we’ll see how it turns out. Yamato can finally hang out with Sayama so he doesn’t seem to care. It’s very similar to Madoka Rebellion where Homura won in the end and everyone is content to live in her world. The difference being that most of them didn’t know about it there. Yamato certainly realizes it here and I believe Sayama does as well. It’s possible that the others did have their memories wiped though. It’s just a very odd and somewhat depressing ending based on how you look at it. Dunstan showed that his power is leagues above the rest of the cast so they never even had a prayer of beating him. The fact that the character looks exactly like Stan Lee is also interesting. He effectively wrote himself into the series as the strongest being ever. Stay humble.

The manga can get a little crazy, but one thing it is good at is bringing in a lot of nonstop action. You can make a lot of comparisons to the Bayformers movies, but this one is certainly better than those. The plot just takes a backburner at times as we get fight after fight and then the plot is given through exposition as opposed to actually telling us about it. Honestly without the time travel nonsense which basically introduced the Rune plot (Since she wouldn’t have regained her memories without them) this series could have actually been real good. It’s futile to look at hypotheticals like that, but interesting to think about nonetheless.
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The fact that each of the characters are so powerful and made to be unbeatable also helps make the series a little more entertaining. I still think the heroes should win and having time control is way too overpowered for Yamato, but that helps us bring in the plot hax. Also, the power levels matter a little more since virtually anyone can beat another in one hit. It just depends on who strikes first. Yamato limiting his own power reminds me of Angelic Layer which I’ll talk more about when I get to that review. I suppose it would be too easy otherwise though as Yamato could just stop time and finish everyone off.

Each Ultimo was already strong so the introduction of the God Ultimo forms and then their second modes was cool as well. They just kept on getting stronger and stronger to the point of no return. Again, it’s a shame that parts of the manga were so weak like the characters (I basically liked all of the Doji, but none of the humans were particularly good. If I had to pick a favorite human it would probably be Musashi or Yamato, but that’s not saying much) and the time travel since otherwise parts of it felt like Hunter X Hunter level writing. There was a lot of strategy during the fights to counter the abilities and a lot of potential for directions which the series could go in. Since it was a full war of 7 vs 7 and players could keep on changing sides there were just so many interesting variables.

I’m glad that the pre arc phase ended early on though. As I mentioned, most of the human characters aren’t so good. There are a bunch of them running around, but most are either unlikable, bland, or forgettable. The last two are similar I suppose. The school friends never actually contributed anything and the heroic Doji owners made it hard to root for them at times. One thing I like is how everyone is bloated with self importance as they never give Yamato straight answers, but while amusing, that doesn’t help make them likable. The villains aren’t either although they’re not supposed to be. As I mentioned, you’re really reading this for the action and feats more than anything else.

The art is really good for the most part. The characters look good and I like the designs of the Doji. Their ultimate modes look quite good as well and you can tell that the artist has a lot of experience. What does bring the art down a bit though is the fact that it gets a little too chaotic during the fight scenes. Each page gets very cluttered to the point where it is hard to follow the fight scenes. You will need to spend a long time with some panels to actually see anything. One positive is that each volume takes a lot longer, but I feel like the fights could have been scaled better. I think the author had a problem with showing the scale of the fights while still making them small enough to fit in the actual scene. The trick to that is messing with the background, but I am sure it is difficult. In the end this lowered the art’s ranking overall, but most scenes still look good.
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Overall, It really has been a long time since I read the series. I read volume one almost a decade ago and all of the volumes were separated by very long waits. It took ages to finally read the final volume so you can imagine that my recollection on the early parts is rather iffy. It’s definitely better to read something like this in a marathon batch like with Pandora Hearts. I remember not enjoying it all that much more than I remember why I didn’t enjoy it much. That’s the tricky part since other parts of my memory seem to remember the series being rather dynamic and interesting. I think it’s probably because the concept was cooler than the execution so I still think about what it could have been. For all I know there could be animal violence scenes that I’m forgetting or a bunch of hype moments that I can’t remember. It’s a tricky case and I may re read it someday, but certainly not in the near future. What I can say is that if you’re looking for a mecha series with fighters who are comically overpowered then this may be the title for you. It gets chaotic, but that helps it feel like a summer blockbuster. On the other hand, most action titles just handle all aspects of themselves better than this one does. You’d be better off reading DBZ, Kenshin, Black Cat, or any of those other titles. I’d slightly recommend this one and the positives are a little better than the negatives, at least as far as I can recall. It’s certainly nostalgic looking at this title since it’s been such a long time, too bad it never got an anime. At the very least I’m sure the visuals would have been really cool.

Overall 6/10